Report finds more than 200,000 children sexually abused within the French Catholic Church

Commission president Jean-Marc Sauve speaks to the press during the publishing of a report by an independant commission into sexual abuse by church...
SPEAKING UP for the victims, Jean-Marc Sauvé is a leader in bringing light to the situation. THOMAS COEX/AFP

Daniella Flores | Writer

October 9, 2021

Members of the French Catholic clergy have sexually abused an estimated 330,000 minors over the past 70 years, according to a shocking French report published on Tuesday. It documents the most complete account of sexual abuse within the French Catholic Church specifically. The report claims that for the past seven decades, the institution prioritized its self-preservation over the victims who were silenced. 

Clergymen themselves sexually abused 216,000 minors. The number rises to 330,000 when including victims involved with affiliated religious schools or programs. Out of 115,000 priests and clerics within the French Catholic Church, between 2,900 and 3,200 of them were abusers, working in the Church from 1950 to as recent as 2020. A significant majority of the abuse happened between 1950 and 1968. 

The report found that children were more likely to be abused within Church-like settings rather than in state schools or summer camps. 80% of the victims abused were boys between the ages of 10 to 13. 

It also highlights how in recent years, other countries have had to deal with the damaging effects to the reputation of the Catholic Church. 

Abuse of minors within the Church accounts for 4% of all sexual violence within France, according to Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).

JEAN-MARC SAUVÉ (left), hands copies of the report to Catholic Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort (right), president of the Bishops’ Conference of France. THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

The investigation into the Church began in 2018, delegated by French Catholic clergy groups and financed by the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The commission was permitted to access any archives of both the dioceses and affiliated religious institutions. 

Sauvé, a former civil servant, headed the 21 interdisciplinary panels of experts from various religious backgrounds to produce the CIASE’s report. Around 6,500 individual testimonies were acquired, ultimately leading to the identification of 2,700 sexual abuse victims; an additional 4,800 were identified by an investigation into the Church press clippings and archives. 

Several of these sexual abuse cases have been forwarded to law enforcement or–in some cases–Church officials themselves. 

The constant revelations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church create ongoing chaos for the Vatican and Pope Francis. 

ADDRESSING THE PEOPLE Pope Francis expresses his shame about the findings. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Pope Francis expressed his shame in the fact that the Church has continued to ignore the cry for help by sexual abuse victims. I wish to express my sorrow and my pain to the victims for the trauma that they have suffered and also my shame, our shame, my shame for the too-long incapacity of the Church to put them at the center of its attention,” Francis said. His hopes were to reassure survivors of his constant prayers and support for them. 

In response to the scandal, the Catholic Church has pledged to be more transparent. Last year, the Vatican published a series of new guidelines for bishops, guiding them not to ignore accusations under any circumstances. 

Time and time again, the Catholic Church has demonstrated a lack of responsibility regarding sexual abuse scandals. And for years, the Church’s promises of improvement have fallen short.

“It is sad to see that for years so many kids have had to deal with this and not get the attention and help that they deserve,” junior Emma Massamiri said. 

Thousands of these sexually abused children have had to walk through life feeling silenced, ignored, and violated. The Catholic Church also has failed to take into consideration the lasting emotional trauma that children will face because of their ignorance. The clergy abused those who trusted their leadership the most.

With practically no sense of accountability for priests and clergymen within the Church, the damaging and toxic patterns have remained a constant presence. 

“I think it’s really devastating that all these children are being assaulted and abused and there hasn’t been much awareness about this,” junior Tessa Campbell said. “The French Catholic Church has been trying to hide from these accusations from the people but now that this scandal has come to light, they won’t be able to hide anymore.” 

The French Catholic Church will continue to deal with the repercussions of the 2,500-page report, hopefully forcing them to break the vicious cycle of ignorance or face backlash from the public. 

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