A new report by an independent commission on sexual abuse has revealed that between 2,900 and 3,200 pedophile clergymen have worked in the French Catholic Church since the 1950s.
“We had to cross historical, sociological, medical and psychiatric perspectives. We had to call upon skills in the area of child protection, social work, questions of abuse and also bring to bear skills in the area of theology and law,” said Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of the independent commission to CNN on Sunday, October 3, ahead of the release of the commission’s final report on Tuesday.
The report aims to establish the facts and provide an understanding of what happened in order to prevent “such tragedies” from taking place in the future. But the report does not aim to establish “personal responsibility,” according to the commission’s website.
This commission was set up before Pope Francis issued an edict in May 2019 that established new rules for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, mandating for the first time that all dioceses set up systems for reporting abuse and cover-ups.
The commission is made up of 21 people and was set up in 2018 by the French Catholic Church hierarchy and religious institutes after sexual abuse scandals by priests came to light.
Sauvé said creating the commission was an important stepping stone towards addressing “this secret and hideous side of our society” and that an “enormous amount of work” had gone into building the report over the last 32 months.
“We worked a lot with the victims, and we did not delegate the task of listening to all the victims to research laboratories. Of course, the research laboratories did some of the hearings, but we conducted a large number of hearings ourselves,” Sauvé said.
Some of the thousands of victims identified were sent to organizations that provide legal, medical and psychological support.
“I went through a season of hell,” Christian Debreuil, a victim who was abused when he was 11 years old, testified before the commission.
“I hope you can take them out of this sort of isolation syndrome, of blindness” Debreuil said of the French Catholic Church.
“They are still in denial, contempt, and minimize issues.”
Katherine Dalle, head of communications for the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF), told CNN that the report into sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church — set to publish Tuesday — will “change everything”
“It is a very important moment for people who have been abused. It is an important moment for the church in France. Jean-Marc Sauvé has done remarkable work,” she said.
“Pedophilia concerns all of us. I invite all of you to have an attitude of truthfulness and compassion among yourselves with regards to this report,” it added