A 2,500-page report contains the results of a two-and-a-half-year investigation by the French Independent Commission against Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE), according to which at least 216,000 children were raped in the last seven decades.
The abusers would have been around 3,000 male priests or religious, and when including laypeople who worked in religious institutions, the number of victims would reach 330,000, according to DW of Sept. 5.
The CIASE drew on the church, court, press, and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses.
Although prosecutions are time-barred for most of the crimes, a few dozen are within the 40-year limit.
The director of the investigation, Jean-Marc Sauve, described the situation as “very serious,” adding that “about 60% of men and women who were sexually abused encounter major problems in their sentimental or sexual life”.
Likewise, the Commission concludes that “The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence.”
Among its recommendations to prevent abuse, it emphasizes the proper training of priests and other clergy, the revision of the legal code the Vatican uses to govern the church, and the creation of policies that recognize and offer compensation to victims.
One of the victims, François Devaux, is also director of the victims’ group “La Parole Liberee” (The Liberated Word) and believes that the estimate of 300,000 victims is minuscule given that the “victims did not dare to speak out or trust the commission.”
“It is indispensable that the church redresses the harm caused by all these crimes, and compensation is the first step,” Devaux added.
Devaux was abused by Bernard Peynat, a now defrocked priest convicted of child molestation and sentenced to five years in prison, who admitted to raping at least 75 children.
“We are appalled,” expressed the head of the French bishops’ conference, Monsignor Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, who also expressed his shame and asked for forgiveness.
The abuses discovered in France are not exceptional; at least 3,677 children were abused by religious individuals in Germany between 1946 and 2014, according to a 2018 report. Also, independent lawyers in the United States, report there were more than 11,000 complaints, according to Swissinfo.ch.
Other scandals also broke out in Chile, Argentina, Canada, and Australia. One of the most horrific cases is the one reported in Canada, where murders allegedly also occurred.
There, the head of the Canadian indigenous community Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, Rosanne Casimir, reported the discovery of the remains of 215 children, confirming one of the darkest and terrible chapters in the country’s history.
“This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light: the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” Casimir was quoted as saying by regional media CFJC Today on May 27.
He also stated that the deaths of those children, even as young as three years old, were not documented, adding, “At this point we have more questions than answers.”