PARIS — Some 216,000 children and teenagers may have been victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France since 1950s, says an investigative commission report released on Tuesday.
If victims in other institutions run by the Church are included, the total number may be 330,000, says Jean-Marc Sauve, president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).
Some 80 per cent of the victims were boys between the ages of 10 and 13, while 20 per cent were girls of different age groups. Almost one-third of the cases involved rape.
“The numbers are distressing and cannot be left with no consequences,” Sauve said.
In addition to their suffering from the abuse, the victims suffer from further problems including isolation and often shame and guilt, he said. Many are still suffering the consequences of what had been done to them.
According to the study, nearly two-thirds of the crimes were perpetrated by clergy, the rest by church employees. Since 1950, between 2,900 and 3,200 members of the clergy have been identified as attackers.
According to the study, the Church was the third most common setting in France for incidents of abuse, behind only attacks among friends or family.
Pope Francis said his thoughts were with the victims and said he was feeling deep remorse for their suffering and gratitude for their courage in addressing the incidents.
Francois Devaux, who heads the victims’ group La Parole Liberee, said during the presentation of the long-awaited report that the Church “will have to pay for all these crimes.” This will involve billions of dollars, he said.
“In view of so many shattered, often destroyed lives, we are ashamed and outraged,” said Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops’ Conference of France after the report was released.
He added that all necessary steps would be taken to ensure that such a scandal would not happen again. Action should be taken at the meeting of the church bodies in November, he said.