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330,000 children victims of church sex abuse in France: Report


Francois Devaux, head of a victims' association, welcomed the release of the damning report. Picture courtesy: BBC/AFP

A major French report released Tuesday found that an estimated 330,000 children were victims of sex abuse within France's Catholic Church over the past 70 years.


The president of the commission that issued the report, Jean-Marc Sauve, said the estimate, based on scientific research, includes abuses committed by priests and other clerics as well as by non-religious people involved in the church. He said about 80 per cent are male victims.


The report says an estimated 3,000 child abusers — two-thirds of the priests — worked in the church during that period. Sauvé said the overall figure of victims includes an estimated 216,000 people abused by priests and other clerics.


Pope Francis "felt pain" on hearing about the inquiry's finding, a Vatican statement said.

François Devaux, who is also the founder of the victims' association La Parole Libérée (Freed speech), said there had been a "betrayal of trust, betrayal of morale, betrayal of children".


The independent inquiry was commissioned by the French Catholic Church in 2018. It spent more than two-and-a-half years combing through court, police and Church records and speaking to victims and witnesses.


Most cases assessed by the inquiry are thought to be too old to prosecute under French law. The inquiry called on the Church to take responsibility for what happened, including by providing compensation to the victims.


The inquiry found that about 60% of the men and women who were abused had gone on to "encounter major problems in their emotional or sexual lives".

The French Church has previously announced a plan for "financial contributions" to victims, beginning next year.

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