The French Episcopal Conference recognizes the institutional responsibility of the Church in the abuse scandal


CORRESPONDENT IN PARIS

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Historical scoop: the French Episcopal Conference has recognized the Church’s “institutional responsibility” for the attacks, violence, abuse and rape of 216,000 to 330,000 minors, victims of priests and pedophiles, between 1950 and 2020.

At the beginning of October, representatives of the Conference participated in the presentation of the devastating conclusions of the independent Commission on sexual abuse in the Church (Ciase): between 2,900 and 3,200 French priests about 10,000 children were abused during the last half century; between 216,000 and 330,000 minors were victims of attacks of a very diverse nature …

A few days after these conclusions were known, Pope Francis made public his “shame” in the face of exceptionally serious revelations.

The Episcopal Conference began its second annual meeting last Tuesday, in Lourdes, entirely devoted to listening to many victims and studying a institutional response to disclosures about sexual assault and pedophilia within the Church, for a long half century.

Two days in advance, Monsignor Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Episcopal Conference, made the first conclusions public early on Friday afternoon, beginning his statement with these words: “The Conference recognizes institutional responsibility of the church”.

Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort added: “Such actions were possible in a general context of dysfunctions, mentalities and practices, within the church, which need the recognition of our institutional responsibility.”

It is a “mea culpa”, an act of collective contrition, by the bishops and archbishops of France, assuming a historical responsibility amid a colossal tragedy.

After the recognition of institutional responsibility, the Episcopal Conference opens a new page in the history of the Church of France.

For months, the French Church had begun to study some form of “financial contribution” that would not be “compensation” but a kind of not only moral help to many victims. This economic compensation, to be evaluated and carried out, starting next year, would be financed by private donations from bishops, priests, Catholics or people interested in participating.

The historic recognition of the institutional responsibility of the Church in the pedophile abuses of several thousand priests and laity, should follow a process of possible reforms “piloted” by the Episcopal Conference, in close collaboration with the Vatican.

The Church of France carefully studies the 45 proposals of the Ciase, which raise questions of extreme gravity for the practical functioning of the institution, beyond national borders.

In the opinion of the Ciase, once institutional responsibility has been recognized, the Church of France should carry out “substantive institutional reforms” that could affect the secrecy of confession, the practical management of institutions, the possible participation of lay people in the management not only administrative of the Church, the creation of an “independent body” destined to “watch over” the institutional “good progress”, the position of women in the not only administrative management of the Church …

Issues of immense importance, beyond the historical scandal of pedophile abuse and crimes during the last fifty years.

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