French Catholic Church says it will compensate survivors of sexual abuse

On Monday, the France Catholic Church announced it’ll have to financially compensate sex abuse victims by taking out a loan and selling property assets if needed. 

The announcement comes a month after the release of a sweeping report on sexual abuse by the clergy that has fueled growing calls for reform. The archbishop of Reims and the president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, Éric de Moulins-Beaufort stated, “We will ensure that no one is left behind” (Bishop). The measure, which is one of several approved by the bishops on Monday, is set to be a significant step in the French church’s reckoning of sexual abuse.

The sexual abuse, referring to, “An estimated 216,000 people over the age of 18 had been sexually abused as children by clergy since 1950. That number rises to 330,000 if secular perpetrators, such as lay members of the Church working at Catholic schools, are taken into account” (France 24).

Aside from the selling of property assets and taking out a loan, parishioners can also donate money to the compensation fund, which is an account for the large portion of the Catholic Church’s funding in France. Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort, did not explicitly give any detail on how much of the church compensation fund would grow, instead he said, “Obviously we must gather sums that are far greater than what we had imagined, given the scope of the abuse” (Blog).

The bishops asked Pope Francis to send a team of “trusted” advisers from the Vatican to ensure and evaluate the French church’s child-protection measures. The Vatican’s role in the handling of abuse scandals in the Catholic Church has been criticized by victim’s groups, who argue that it is an obstacle to reform on some issues, like holding negligent bishops accountable, requiring that allegations be reported to civil authorities, and, in rare cases, using confession to keep abuse secret.

On Monday, the bishops voted to create a special canonical court which will handle abuse cases nationwide, a way to avoid certain priests from being accused of abuse judged by local church leaders who are inclined to protect them. Other issues around the canon law aren’t from the inside, but instead, the outside.

French church’s would require policies shift in Rome, which, French Catholic leaders are set to meet with Pope Francis in late December. In his closing speech, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort said, “We are not at the end of the path, but a path is possible, it has been laid out for us, and we must follow it step by step” (Bishop).

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