By Lisa Zengarini
A month after the submission of the Report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE), French bishops are meeting for their General Assembly in Lourdes this week to examine and discuss its contents. The meeting started on Tuesday and will run until November 8.
The CIASE Report
The report was submitted by the Commission’s president Jean-Marc Sauvé to Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, Chairman the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF), and to Sister Véronique Margron, President of and the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France (CORREF), on October 5, following a two-and-a half-year investigation. The nearly 2,500-page report revealed that an estimated total of 330,000 people living in France have been victims of sexual abuse within Church as children from 1950 to 2020, 216.000 of whom were abused by Catholic priests and religious.
French bishops dedicated the first day of their meeting to reflecting on the document and listening to victims. Briefing journalists on the day, Father Hugues de Woillemont, spokesman of CEF, and Bishop Luc Crépy, head of the Bishops’ Permanent Unit for the prevention and fight against paedophilia, said that the main objective of the assembly is to focus on the victims and survivors.
Priority to supporting victims
They remarked that bishops realize that the CIASE Report has caused dismay and “great expectations” among many faithful and society at large. Recalling Archbishop’s de Moulins-Beaufort opening remarks at the session, Bishop Crépy reiterated that all bishops feel deep shame at the findings and are determined to take bold action in supporting victims and making sure the Church is a safe place for all. This action will be discussed among bishops, to start with, then between bishops and victims and finally between bishops and lay people. This issue "is everyone's business", the prelate pointed out.
The issue of compensation
He further confirmed that the bishops will address the issue of compensation, emphasizing that "there is no taboo subject", and that an independent body has been established to quantify how much should awarded to the victims. Among its 45 recommendations, the "Sauvé Report" suggests the Church should recognize the civil and social responsibility of the Church, regardless of any individual wrongdoing by its leaders. It also recommends the amount of compensation should be evaluated individually according to the damage suffered by each victim. In March this year the CEF established a special compensation fund open to donations from bishops, priests, faithful and anyone wanting to contribute. It has also created a helpline for victims and survivors.
Special penitential act
On Saturday morning, , French bishops are expected to celebrate a special penitential act and pray together in the forecourt of the Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire Basilica which will be broadcast live by KTO, the French Catholic television.