We were already preparing for some damning results. After three years, an independent commission set up by the Bishops’ Conference of France was set to release its investigation into child sexual abuse by Catholic leaders in the country. We knew they interviewed over “6,500 victims and witnesses” and prepared a report of over 2,500 pages.
Over the weekend, we had hints of what was to come: There were anywhere between 2,900-3,200 sexual abusers among all Catholic officials in the country since 1950.
The final report has now been released and there’s an even more jaw-dropping number: 333,000 victims.
An estimated 330,000 children were victims of sex abuse within France’s Catholic Church over the past 70 years, according to a report released Tuesday that represents the country’s first major accounting of the worldwide phenomenon.
The figure includes abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and other people involved in the church — wrongdoing that Catholic authorities covered up over decades in a “systemic manner,” according to the president of the commission that issued the report, Jean-Marc Sauvé.
216,000 of those victims said their assailants were priests and other officials who received a stamp of approval from the Church; the other abusers were lay leaders in local churches. All that tells us is that this can’t be blamed on people outside the Catholic hierarchy. The Church is, as always, complicit.
Remember that only 22 of all the alleged crimes can still be prosecuted — because the assailant is alive and the abuse happened recently enough — and prosecutors have been given all the relevant information. Another 40 cases or so involve assailants who are still alive, but the abuse happened too long ago to pursue legal action. So the bulk of these cases occurred earlier in the time frame that was being looked at. Still, that doesn’t absolve the Church from its culpability.
While the Commission offered dozens of recommendations to the Church that could help prevent future abuse, what they won’t say is rather obvious: Leave the damn Church. Get your kids out of there. Stop giving them money. This isn’t a religious institution; it’s a child sex abuse cult that doesn’t deserve your time, money, or respect.
In the decades since these abuse stories began circulating, it’s not like an investigation has ever revealed the Church handled everything properly. It’s always the same story: The Church turned its back on victims while enabling abusers. There’s no way to give those victims back their innocence, and we know all too well that the Church will do everything in its power to hold onto as much of its cash reserves as it can.
Unless active, believing Catholics come to their damn senses and leave the Church for good — even if they still believe in God — nothing will change.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)