Sexual abuse: the Church must recognize its responsibility

Editorial of the “World”. For the Catholic Church, it is an understatement to say that the Sauvé report on sexual abuse committed within it, made public on October 5, had the effect of an explosion. The surprise came less from the discovery of a scandal already widely known, thanks to the testimonies of the victims, than from its magnitude – 216,000 people of full age today have been sexually assaulted by priests or religious since 1950 – and because the Church is designated as the institution, outside the family, where such attacks are by far the most frequent.

In the Church, sexual abuse has a character « massif » and “Systemic », Assen the report drafted at the request of the episcopate by the former vice-president of the Council of State. The French bishops, meeting in Lourdes from November 2 to 8 in plenary assembly, will have to decide on the measures to be taken, not only to repair the injured lives, but also to reform the way of functioning of an institution where concealment and non -denunciation of crimes and sexual crimes have long prevailed, and whose discourse on sexuality masks an immense discomfort.

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The time is no longer for inertia and procrastination. To the anger of the victims is now added that of a number of Catholics, 76% of whom believe, according to a survey, that the reaction of the hierarchy has not been up to the revelations of the Sauvé report. The bishops, paralyzed, reacted awkwardly. The refusal of the episcopate to invite associations of victims to its assembly, preferring to listen to testimonies selected by it, raises fears of a withdrawal into the inter-self.

Mechanism of “financial redress”

The bishops, after having had the courage to entrust an independent mission with the task of drawing up an uncompromising report, must draw all the consequences. The first two consist in cooperating unreservedly with justice on current affairs, and in recognizing the responsibility of the Church as an institution. Only such recognition would make it possible to implement the mechanism of “Financial reparation” recommended by the Sauvé report. For the institution, it raises both financial concerns – who will pay? – and theological questions – can the Church, assimilated to the body of Christ, be guilty?

However, the systemic role of the Church, now established, requires that the responsibility of the institution that selected and trained them be recognized, beyond the individual questioning of the aggressors and those who protected them, consecrated and employed and cannot escape human realities.

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The Church cannot stop there: she must also remedy the“Excessive sacralization of the person of the priest” denounced by the Sauvé report, and the marginalization of lay people in general and women in particular. Some of the desirable developments presuppose a reform of canon law, and therefore a will on the part of the Vatican. But the Church of France should set an example by initiating, with the laity, an open reflection on their involvement in decision-making, on the exclusion of women from the priesthood and on sexuality.

Make no mistake about it: the ability of the bishops to recognize the devastation committed over decades, to hear the public’s anger and to initiate deep reforms depends the future of the first religion of France. Who will continue to believe in his message of support for the underprivileged and the most vulnerable if, after such a scandal and decades of denial, the Church only reacts by taking cosmetic measures?

Publication of the report of the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: what you need to know

On Tuesday, October 5, the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church released its report. It estimates the number of victims, during their minority, of sexual violence on the part of a priest, a deacon or a religious, in the current population aged 18 and over, at 216,000 people. To understand everything, the articles of the World on the subject :

  • The Catholic Church is the institution where the rate of sexual violence against minors is the highest after the family: the overwhelming inventory of the Sauvé commission
  • Responsibility of the institution, compensation for victims, governance… The recommendations of the commission on sexual abuse in the Church
  • Victims’ associations demand the application of Ciase’s recommendations
  • “The Church needs a real aggiornamento”: read the editorial
  • “Clerical predation remains at a significant level, although lower than in the first decades of the period analyzed”: read the interview with historian Philippe Portier
  • For Ciase, the secrecy of confession “cannot be opposed to the legal obligation to report sexual violence” on minors: read the interview with the anthropologist Laëtitia Atlani-Duault
  • “Outside the family, the Catholic Church is the first institution for the frequency of sexual violence”: read the interview with sociologist Nathalie Bajos
  • Sexual violence under the gaze of the social sciences: read the decryption
  • Behind the scenes of the Sauvé commission
  • Jean-Marc Sauvé, the confessor of sexual violence in the Church: read the portrait

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Sexual abuse: the Church must recognize its responsibility

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