Around 330,000 children have been sexually abused by members of the French Catholic church since 1950, including 216,000 by priests and clergy, an independent commission said Tuesday in a report that demonstrates that sexual exploitation of minors in the church was far more severe than previously known.
The findings were shared in an extensive 2,500-page report put out by an independent commission that was set up three years ago at the request of the Catholic Church in France.
In its report, the commission concluded that there have been at least 2,900 to 3,200 perpetrators of child sexual assault among clergy members—an estimate based on demographic and archival analysis.
The commission itself has identified around 2,700 victims of abuse but wide-ranging research and polling data show that around 216,000 victims were abused by clergy members and that number could further go up to 330,000 when including abuse by lay members of the church.
The commission’s head, Jean-March Sauvé, noted that the church not only failed to take necessary measures to prevent abuse but also turned a blind eye, failing to report abuse and sometimes knowingly putting children in touch with predators.
The commission has called on the French state to help compensate the victims of abuse, especially in cases that are too old to prosecute in court.
The head of the French bishop’s conference sought forgiveness from the victims and said the body will meet later on Tuesday to discuss its next steps. https://buy.tinypass.com/checkout/template/cacheableShow?aid=Yj2fRrCPpu&templateId=OTMNB56G6EFU&templateVariantId=OTVOUG74XV25B&offerId=fakeOfferId&experienceId=EXC9N6W4G9FP&iframeId=offer_408a0d3a235f97bff035-0&displayMode=inline&pianoIdUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fauth.forbes.com%2Fid%2F&widget=template&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com
80%. That’s the percentage of victims who were boys, hailing from a wide variety of social backgrounds, the report said.
Olivier Savignac, head of the sexual abuse survivors association “Parler et Revivre” (Speak out and Live again), told the Associated Press that the high ratio of victims per abuser is “terrifying for French society, for the Catholic Church.” Savignac, who also contributed to the probe, added: “I perceived this priest as someone who was good, a caring person who would not harm me. But it was when I found myself on that bed half-naked and he was touching me that I realized something was wrong… And we keep this, it’s like a growing cyst, it’s like gangrene inside the victim’s body and the victim’s psyche.”
The commission was established in 2018 after the French catholic church faced growing criticism for its handling of sexual abuse scandals. The establishment of the commission came at a time when public confidence in the church was at an all-time low and it faced dwindling congregations. The French report follows similar disclosures of sexual abuse allegations against Roman Catholic clergy members in the United States, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Poland and several others.