French Catholic Church Admits to As Many as 10,000 Victims since 1950
A committee investigating sexual abuse and cover-up committed by Catholic clergy in France speculated that as many as 10,000 children and vulnerable adults may have been abused by priests since 1950, a staggering number that shows the clear need for immediate reform within the French Church.
So far, more than 3,000 victims have testified to the French Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church. Similarly, according to a report released last fall in the UK, there were 3000 instances of child sexual abuse reported to the Catholic Church in that country between 1970-2015. Based on SNAP’s internal analysis, we believe that there are likely as many as 37,000 victims in France and we hope that this initial news will remind those survivors that they are not alone and that there are people who will believe them and support them.
Recent revelations into the handling of Bernard Preynat by French Catholic officials, including the former Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Phillipe Barbarin, demonstrate how high-ranking clergy were willing to flout the law to protect their reputations at the expense of the children in their diocese. Preynat, who was eventually defrocked, was a prolific serial abuser. It is difficult to believe that what happened in Lyon was an isolated case, especially as investigations in countries around the world including Australia, Ireland, and the United States demonstrate that the Catholic “playbook” on handling abuse has been in use worldwide.
We hope that this French report will reveal in greater detail who knew what and when so that those who were involved in perpetrating or enabling abuse can be identified and removed from power. The best way to protect today's youth is to ensure that those Church officials who sold children’s futures for short-lived silence will be stripped of their positions. The innocent and the vulnerable deserve Catholic leaders who will protect them from those who would harm them.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)