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Continued History of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

A report released on Oct. 5 reveals France’s first major account of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. The 2,500-page report reveals that about 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by priests and other church figures between the years of 1950-2020. Over 70 years, the study estimated around 115,000 church members were involved in the abuse, pointing to a high number of victims per church member. Head of Parler et Revivre (Speak Out and Live Again) Olivier Savignac, who contributed to the investigation, spoke of this high ratio as “terrifying for French society.” 

Prosecutors will not pursue many of the cases in the report because the statute of limitations has run out. According to the report’s author, Jean-Marc Sauvé, only 22 cases could be viably prosecuted. More than half of the cases reported took place before the year 1969, which according to Sauvé, is a product of the inattentive attitude and lack of concern of the Catholic Church. A similar reaction to these sexual abuse cases occurred in the United States, where these scandals did not become a national concern until the mid-1990s. Many abuse cases had been handled by individual bishops rather than on an overarching level. 

Pedophilia within the Catholic Church has not been a secret for many years, and sexual abuse of children has been a global problem for decades. There are many cases in other countries such as Australia, Ireland, Germany and the United States. This year, the Pope took several actions to address this long-standing issue of sexual abuse, including holding a summit on pedophilia in the Catholic Church and creating laws that would criminalize sexual abuse. The newly revised law explicitly incites sexual abuse, grooming, child pornography possession and concealment of abuse as a criminal offense under the Vatican legislation. Additionally, the new law covers sexual abuse of adults, denouncing the original claim that adults can remove themselves from the situation and avoid the assault. Despite this, some people are still criticizing the Pope, stating that he has responded too slow to sexual abuse scandals.  

In response to this revelation, the head of the Conference of Bishops, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, has since asked for forgiveness from the abuse victims, and the bishops plan to have a meeting to discuss the next steps. Christian Dubreuil is one of the victims who spoke to Sauvé and stated that he most wanted a statement from the Catholic Church in writing which acknowledges him as a victim of a sex crime. The report included financial compensation for victims via a case-by-case approach to ensure that each abuse victim receives the proper compensation according to their situation. Earlier this year, the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) announced an endowment fund designed to compensate abuse victims. However, victims who seek compensation may only be accepted if they have been recognized as victims by their diocese and whose cases have been through certain procedures. At the least, many victims are demanding official recognition from the Catholic Church as the first step.  

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Yasmeen Julemiste is a Hospitality and Tourism Management major. Her hobbies include cooking, singing, drawing and painting. She loves learning new things and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. She hopes to travel and try foods from all different countries and cultures.