The dark history of the French Catholic Church was revealed this week through an independent commission that exposed how thousands of the French Catholic clergy abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years. The Church prioritized the protection of its institution over survivors.
Pope Francis said he is “shamed” by the church’s failure. He called upon leaders of the church to ensure similar tragedies would never happen again.
The horrific report found that around 3,000 pedophiles have operated within the French Catholic Church since the 1950s. The majority of the victims were boys, aged between 10 and 13.
The independent commission gathered more than 6,000 testimonies from both victims and witnesses about the abuse. The number of abused children rises from 216,000 to an estimated 330,000 when including victims of people who were not official clergy but had other links to the Church, for example, Catholic schools or youth programs.
In his weekly remarks at the Vatican, the Pope expressed shame that the church had ignored victims for so long, and how he wants the Church to be a “safe home for everyone.” He did not directly address the allegations, but encouraged bishops and leaders to make efforts to ensure it does not happen again.
His remarks were considered to be one of his strongest condemnations ever of child sexual abuse in the church to date.
Pope Francis said: “I would like to express to the victims my sadness and pain for the trauma that they suffered. It is also my shame, our shame, for the incapacity of the church for too long to put them at the centre of its concerns.”
Earlier this year, commission head Jean-Marc Suavé estimated there could be at least 10,000 victims stemming from the French Catholic Church. With the release of the report, he said that the 2,900-3,200 range is a “minimum estimate.”