Over 10,000 child sex abuse in Catholic Churches: Pope Francis accused of inaction

4th March 2021

4th March 2021

From Australian country towns to schools in Ireland and cities across the Europe, the Catholic Church has faced an avalanche of child sexual abuse accusations in the last few decades.

 In a recent case,  the head of an The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) came up with astonishing number and estimates that there might have been up to 10,000 victims since 1950. The commission which was set up in 2018 by the French Catholic Church hierarchy, after huge and repeated child abuse scandals shook the Catholic Church at home and abroad, said that they have, so far, received 6,500 testimonies and on the hotline set up in June 2019 for victims and witnesses to report abuse, they have received 6,500 calls in the first 17 months of operation.

Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the CIASE said it is still not known at this stage what percentage of all victims have testified to the commission. “The big question for us is: How many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less?” he told journalists.

With the strict policies of France government that restrict anyone to collect data on ethnic and religious basis makes it even more difficult to learn about the scale of this scandal     

Molestation by priests isn’t something new but it gained significant media attention when François Devaux, the head of a French victims’ group filed a high-profile case against then priest Bernard Preyant who has already confessed to abusing Boy Scouts during the 1970s and 1980s. Preynat is believed to have abused as many as 85 boys and has been jailed for five years last year. The church tribunal said its internal investigation found he committed "criminal acts of sexual character against minors under 16." Representatives of victims also accused Preynat's superior, Philippe Barbarin, of covering up the abuse. Barbarin was convicted in 2019 of not reporting abuse to civil authorities and given a six-month suspended prison sentence. 

France isn’t alone where people were sexually abused by church members. In Germany, where a 2018 report found that more than 3,600 people were sexually abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014. In August 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury named more than 300 clergy in a report which found more than 1,000 children had been abused. In February 2019, it was revealed that high-ranking Australian cardinal George Pell had been found guilty of abusing two choir boys in 1996 - he was convicted nine months earlier, but a court initially banned the press from reporting it. 

Adding to this, the Church has come under pressure to compensate victims. In response to the scandals, the Catholic Church pledged more transparency. The Vatican also last year published new guidelines for bishops, directing them not to dismiss accusations even if they appear vague or initially dubious. In France also victims have complained about a lack of action to prosecute abuse by priests. In 2019 French bishops even agreed to provide payments to victims; however, it is still questionable who would be eligible for payments.

Pope Francis called for "decisive action" when he was elected in 2013, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse.

The increasing scandals has definitely put Catholic institution and religious communities into question and it would be seemingly important to watch how Catholic churches prepare themselves to deal with it.

 

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