Members of the Catholic clergy in France sexually abused an estimated 216,000 minors over the past seven decades, according to a damning report published Tuesday that said the Church had prioritized the protection of the institution over victims who were urged to stay silent.
The number of abused minors rises to an estimated 330,000 when including victims of people who were not clergy but had other links to the Church, such as Catholic schools and youth programs. Between 2,900 and 3,200 abusers were estimated to have worked in the French Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020, out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics, the report found.
“The Catholic Church is the place where the prevalence of sexual violence is at its highest, other than in family and friend circles,” said the report, which found that children were also more likely to abused within Church settings than in state-run schools or summer camps.
“Faced with this scourge, for a very long time the Catholic Church’s immediate reaction was to protect itself as an institution and it has shown complete, even cruel, indifference to those having suffered abuse.”
Tuesday’s report, the most complete account of sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church to date, was compiled by an independent commission at the request of Church officials. It follows similar reports from other countries that have dealt a blow to the reputation of the Church in recent years.
Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) which authored the report, said the abuse was systemic and not limited to “a few black sheep that strayed from the flock.”
Abuse of minors within the Church accounts for close to 4% of all sexual violence in France, Sauvé said at a news conference Tuesday. Most of the violence happened between 1950 and 1968, he said, but it still persists today, adding, “the problem is not behind us, it is still here.”