An investigation into sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church has found that an estimated 216,000 children were victims of abuse by clergy since 1950, Jean-Marc Sauve, head of the commission that compiled the report, said on Tuesday.
The abuse was systemic, Sauve said at a public, online presentation of the report, adding that the Church had shown “deep, total and even cruel indifference for years,” protecting itself rather than the victims.
The revelations in France are the latest to rock the Roman Catholic Church, after a series of sexual abuse scandals around the world, often involving children, over the past 20 years.
He said, The Church not only did not take the necessary measures to prevent abuse but also turned a blind eye, failing to report abuse and sometimes knowingly putting children in touch with predators, Speaking just after Sauve at the presentation of the report.
Sauve said the problem was still there. He added that the Church had until the 2000s shown complete indifference to victims and that it only started to really change its attitude in 2015-2016.
The Catholic Church`s teaching on subjects such as sexuality, obedience and the sanctity of the priesthood helped created blind spots which allowed sexual abuse by clergy to happen, Sauve said, adding that the church needed to reform the way it approached those issues to rebuild trust with society.
Sauve said the commission itself had identified around 2,700 victims through a call for testimony, and thousands more had been found in archives.
There have been around 2,900-3,200 suspected paedophiles in the French Church over the last 70 years, Sauve said.
But a wide-ranging study by research and polling groups estimated that there had been around 216,000 victims, and the number could rise to 330,000 when including abuse by lay members.
“You are a disgrace to our humanity,” Francois Devaux, who set up victims` association La Parole Liberee, told church representatives at the public presentation of the report, before Sauve took the floor.
He thanked the commission, saying he hoped the report would prove a turning point: “You finally bring victims an institutional recognition of the responsibility of the Church.”