French Catholic bishops gathered in Lourdes for their biannual meeting on Tuesday, a month after the publication of a devastating report on widespread sexual abuse of children within the institution.
The Sauvé report’s findings on child crime in the Church horrified the nation after it revealed that approximately 216,000 children had been abused by the clergy since the 1950s.
The “massive phenomenon” had been covered for decades by a “veil of silence”.
The independent commission also estimates that around 3,000 predators have been implicated in the past 70 years.
For a week, the 120 members present will discuss the findings highlighted in the report published on October 5 and will devote nearly half of their work to the fight against violence and sexual assault on minors.
“I believe that there is no taboo question”, declared Monsignor Luc Crepy, president of “the permanent unit for the prevention and fight against pedophilia”.
“The issue of compensation, which is a matter of justice, will be addressed. Knowing this, we must think of victims for whom the limitation period has expired, and therefore who will not have criminal justice since their cases are time-barred. . How can the Church recognize these people and do them justice? ”He continued.
Ahead of the conference, the bishops said they would consider the issue of the church’s institutional accountability for mass abuse, as well as a mechanism to compensate victims, after they were urged by victims and their families. families to recognize their responsibility.
“The bishops have started to pay indemnities. We wanted them to be the first to pay,” revealed Father Hugues de Woillemont, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of France (CEF).
“Maybe in the next few weeks we will be better able to give figures. It is starting to cost several hundred thousand euros.”
In last month’s report, the independent commission recommended that financial compensation be calculated for each individual case based on the severity of the abuse suffered, instead of making lump sum payments.
The money should be taken from the personal property of the attackers or the Church, the commission said, advising against any appeal for donations from the Catholic faithful.
Decisions made at the biannual meeting over the next few days will be voted on by the bishops on November 8.
_Watch the full interview with investigative journalist Robert Chesal in the player above. _