A policeman in front of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral on October 29, 2020.IAN LANGSDON / EFE
The problem of pedophilia within the French Catholic Church threatens to take on Dantesque proportions.
The independent commission that investigates sexual abuse within the French religious establishment since 1950 has been able to confirm, since it began its investigations in 2019, the existence of at least 3,000 victims.
But the figure could be much higher: it could even exceed 10,000 cases, the president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase), Jean-Marc Sauvé, indicated this Tuesday in the last planned meeting with the press. before the presentation of the final report, at the end of September.
"It is very possible that the victims reach at least 10,000", confirmed Sauvé when making the last "situation report" of his investigations.
In view of the outcry caused by the arrival to justice of some cases of silencing by the ecclesiastical hierarchy of cases of pedophilia, such as the one that brought the Archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin to the bench two years ago, and the complaints of others cases in various parts of the world, the French Episcopal Conference decided, at the end of 2018, to create an independent multidisciplinary commission to investigate sexual abuse within it since 1950.
The bishops begin to admit cases of pedophilia: they already recognize 45, about twenty unpublished so far
The Ciase plans to deliver its final report around September 30, in which, in addition to quantifying the problem of pedophilia, it must also analyze "the reasons that favored the way in which these matters were dealt with," so that they do not become to repeat, according to the mandate of the Gallic ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The Episcopal Conference held a telematic meeting last week to begin "deepening its reflection on the issue of responsibility in the framework of sexual abuse against minors committed within the Catholic Church."
As he advanced, in the plenary assembly to be held at the end of this month, they will seek to specify "a viable device in the coming years to lead (the Church) out of the crisis of sexual assaults and abuse of power."
The very preliminary figure of 3,000 victims confirmed by the Ciase comes from the 6,500 calls and emails with testimonies - sometimes several about the same victim or perpetrator - received by the commission between June 3, 2019 and October 31, 2020 This was one of the key parts of the investigation, which is being complemented with various surveys, including one at the national level on generalized abuses against minors, not only within the Church, in order to contextualize the cases of religious, and with the consultation also of civil and ecclesiastical archives, a process that has not yet finished.
Hence the final estimates are so high.
"The big question that is posed to us, and that we continue trying to elucidate, is what percentage of victims" have testified before the commission, which in any case is believed to be a very small part of the problem, Sauvé explained.
"Are they 25% (of the victims? 10%, five percent or even less?"), Questioned the president of the commission, who on numerous occasions has warned that the full scope will probably never be known. of the problem of pedophilia in the Church.
Two-thirds of the victims are men
Of the 3,000 confirmed victims, 62% are men and 38% women.
"We can say with relative certainty that, within the Catholic Church, and unlike in French society, the abuses mainly affected men," said Sauvé, who also indicated that most of the perpetrators of the abuses were priests, rare once lay staff.
The vast majority of the victims (87%) were also minors: 30% were between six and 10 years old and 35% between 11 and 15. 2.5% said they had suffered abuse when they were five or under and 7% between 16 and 17. “Young adults” represent 12.7% of the victims.
Of them, 33% were seminarians when they suffered the abuse.
A striking fact is that half of the complaints received are of abuses suffered between 1950 and 1969. Coincidentally, the age of the complainants who have come to the Ciase authorities is relatively high: 30% are 70 years or older. and 50%, between 50 and 69 years.
Sauvé, however, warned against reading in these data a lower incidence of cases in recent decades: although it cannot be ruled out, it may also be due to the generalized pattern in cases of child abuse of which many of the victims It takes decades, sometimes a lifetime, to denounce or even recall the cases themselves, hence the insistence of some associations that this type of crime be imprescriptible.
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"It will be necessary to analyze whether the figures from recent years are underestimated or not, especially in relation to the traumatic silence that usually accompanies sexual violence," Sauvé insisted.
The new estimates come in a context of maximum awareness in France regarding the abuse of minors, especially since the publication at the beginning of the year of
The Big Family
, where the jurist Camille Kouchner, daughter of the famous former minister Bernard Kouchner, denounces the sexual abuse she suffered his adolescent twin brother by his stepfather, the well-known political scientist Olivier Duhamel. Since then, complaints have multiplied, to the point that the Government has promised to toughen the legislation on the matter and is studying setting a minimum age of consent, which France lacks until now.