A French body set up to investigate child sex abuse in the Catholic Church has received testimony from over 2,800 alleged victims in just under six months – 34 percent of them were under 10 at the time.
The Independent Commission of Inquiry into Sexual Abuse in the Church (Commission independante d’enquete sur les abus sexuels dans l’Eglise; CIASE) called for witnesses and victims to come forward in June and in under six months, over 2,800 people have contacted them.
The commission was giving a report this morning (Thursday) in Lourdes, the French which has been a site of pilgrimage for Christians since 1858 after many people reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. It is in the Hautes-Pyrenees department in the southern French region of Occitanie, not far from the Spanish border.
The commission, headed up by Jean-Marc Sauve, a civil servant who used to be the Vice President of the Council of State, is examining the allegations, many of which date back to events which took place between 1950 and 1970.
Sauve was presenting his findings to bishops in Lourdes two days ahead of an episcopal vote on whether to indemnify victims financially.
During a press conference, he said: “The majority of the sexual abuse took place in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, far more than in previous decades.”
His commission was green-lit by 120 bishops last year to investigate sex abuse in the Catholic Church in France. The commission’s final report is expected to be delivered in early 2021.
The 2,800 people who have come forward did so via telephone, letter, and email. Approximately 61 percent are men and 86 percent of them were assaulted when they were minors.
Thirty-four percent of the victims were under the age of 10 at the time, while 35 percent were aged between 11 and 15. The perpetrators were 98 percent men, including 71 percent of priests. The rest were “religious members of the congregations.”
In 88 percent of the cases, there was no judicial process whatsoever. A “significant percentage” of the victims had never spoken of their ordeals before, not even to their loved ones.
Sauve said: “We are discovering a lot of pain and suffering, a lot of damaged lives.”
He added: “It’s an experience that cannot leave one unchanged or unscathed.”
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