Church’s inability to put victims first is ‘moment of shame’, Pope says after publication of French report

Pope Francis and four French bishops make the sign of the cross during silent prayer for the victims of abuses committed by members of the clergy, prior to the pope's general audience at the Vatican Oct. 6, 2021. The bishops were visiting Rome following a report on sexual abuse in France that estimates more than 200,000 children were abused by priests since 1950, and more than 100,000 others were abused by lay employees of church institutions. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s inability to make victims of abuse their top concern is a cause for intense shame, Pope Francis said.

In the wake of a major report investigating the extent of sexual aggression and abuse against minors in the Church in France, the Pope said, “I wish to express to the victims my sadness, my grief, for the traumas they have endured, and also my shame”.

This deep sense of shame, “our shame, my shame,” he said, was for “the too lengthy inability of the Church to put (victims) at the centre of its concerns”.

The Pope made his remarks at his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, in the presence of a group of bishops and a cardinal from France who had been in Rome for their “ad limina” visit. Just before the audience, the Pope and four of the bishops gathered privately for a moment of silent prayer for victims.

After delivering his main catechesis, the Pope highlighted a recent report published by an independent body commissioned by the French bishops’ conference.

According to the four-year investigation, an estimated 216,000 children were abused by priests since 1950, and more than 100,000 others were abused by lay employees of Church institutions.

The Pope commented on the “considerable number” of known victims revealed in the report.

Assuring victims of his prayers, the Pope asked everyone to pray with him: “To you, Lord, the glory; to us, the shame. This is the moment of shame.”

He encouraged the country’s bishops and superiors general of religious orders “to continue to do their utmost so that similar tragedies are not repeated”.

Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the priests in France, assuring them of his “paternal support before this ordeal, which is arduous, but beneficial”.

He invited the nation’s Catholics to take on their responsibility for guaranteeing that “the Church be a safe home for everyone”.

Meanwhile, the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, U.S. Cardinal Seán O’Malley, welcomed the publication of the final report of the “Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in France”.

The report “is an indictment of the failures of leadership in the Church and those holding responsibility for the care and protection of the faithful”, the cardinal said in a written statement.

“This history of unchecked abuse extending over the course of generations challenges our comprehension of how innocent persons could have suffered so terribly and their voices been ignored for so long,” he wrote.

Working with government officials and law enforcement, he said, the church “must not fail in the commitment to seek healing and justice for the survivors.”

The cardinal welcomed and encouraged the implementation of new measures outlined by Church leaders in France earlier this year, and said they show how the “cruel indifference” that survivors experienced in the Church “can be turned into care and protection”.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that Pope Francis learned “with sorrow” of the contents of the report and his “thoughts go first of all to the victims, with great sorrow for their wounds and gratitude for their courage in reporting” their abuse.

The Pope also prayed that the Catholic Church in France, “in the awareness of this appalling reality” of the suffering of vulnerable children, would trace out a path of repentance and reform.

The report, released on October 5, was written by an investigating commission led by Jean-Marc Sauvé, a senior civil servant.

Before the report was published, he told reporters the inquiry found evidence of between 2900 and 3200 abusive priests out of a total of about 115,000 who had served in France since 1950.

Photo: Prior to the Pope’s general audience at the Vatican on October 6, Pope Francis and four French bishops make the sign of the cross during silent prayer for the victims of abuses committed by members of the clergy (CNS Photo)

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Michael Otto

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  1. Bruce Jones says

    France has many problems to face, one being
    how to deal with sensitive urban zones which
    French police avoid, as the LAW that often applies
    is not based on any Judaeo-Christian influence
    but is SHARIA, and which according to the late Cardinal
    Roger Etchegeray French Cardinal in his Encyclical
    “The church and Racism”, is clearly RACIST.
    It has to deal with a birthrate that is below 2- and
    the medals given out to women to attempt to keep
    the family building going is not be enough as is
    clear from the failing birthrate, now at 1.7.
    It has a leader E.Macron who married a divorcee,
    a baptised Catholic and no role model to speak of.
    The words of Pope Saint John Paul II to a confidante,
    Mons Longhi on a vision he had the “Islamist invasion”
    of Europe are relevant. This he said will be “more painful”
    than those of this millennium” (Nazis and Communists).
    He also stated “They will invade Europe, Europe will be
    a basement, old relics, penumbra, cobwebs.
    Family memories. You, Church of the third
    millennium, must contain the invasion. [INVASION!]
    But not with weapons, weapons will not be enough,
    with your faith lived with integrity.”
    Faith lived with integrity means a great deal of
    soul searching, fasting and praying.
    Mea culpas may be offered, even retribution for victims of
    priestly sinfulness; but the reality of Catholic family
    building must be faced also, which should be protected,
    both from inroads by the socialist government with taxes,
    and also from the jihadists who have NO intention of
    assimilating. Someone bears the burden of migrants who
    come in to become part of the landscape.-French welfare.
    …. Immgration without assimilation is invasion.
    Already many French generals have spoken of a civil
    war. The church in Rome and the church in France need
    to re-examine the reality that confronts them. Saint Lucia
    of Fatima had some prophetic words about Europe.
    Those who open their mouths to speak about social
    justice would serve the church and the world better
    by reflecting deeply on the reality of Islamism.
    Priesthood need to take a cold hard look at the
    place they occupy in a very troubled France,
    Michel Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris in particular.
    The tragedy of Notre Dame is a healthy reminder about
    what really matters in the lives of Catholic French.

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