Scathing report estimates 330,000 victims of abuse within the Catholic Church delivers a blow to France. SNAP reacts.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
(For Immediate Release October 5, 2021)
We are in complete awe of the brave victims who came forward to share their tragic experiences with the commission, they join a huge network of survivors who are changing the world and protecting others from these atrocities.
Jean-Marc Sauve', president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) submitted the report today in the Marceau Long auditorium in Paris. While we are encouraged to learn in this report that 22 alleged cases have been forwarded to prosecutors. Sadly, the majority have been time-barred from justice. We are simply stunned to learn that the report estimates 330,000 victims of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years. Sauve' said estimates are based on research and include abuse committed by priests, other clerics, and laypersons involved with the church.
Earlier this year, the independent committee commissioned in 2018 by the French Catholic Church hierarchy and religious institutes to investigate sexual abuse and cover-up committed by clergy in France estimated that as many as 10,000 children and vulnerable adults may have been abused by clerics since 1950. And just days before the publication of this report, Committee Chairman Jean-Marc Sauvé said the investigation had uncovered between 2,900 and 3,200 pedophile priests or other Church members, adding that this was “a minimum estimate” from this 2,500-page report.
These are astonishing numbers that demand immediate reform within the Catholic Church in France and worldwide. Report after report, country after country, state after state, we learn of horrifying stories from survivors and of the devastating effects that abuse has had on victims. The cultural genocide of children in Catholic institutions in Canada depicted a shameful history in that country. In Poland and Germany, the numbers of survivors continue to increase while more prelates are resigning.
We also believe these staggering numbers should drive parishioners and the public to press for a stronger response from secular authorities in France and inspire other still-silent victims and witnesses to come forward. Based on this investigation and reports we have seen issued by other countries, we believe that there are likely many more survivors who have yet to make their outcry in France, and we hope that this initial news will remind them that they are not alone and that there are people who will believe them and support them.
By our calculations, in just three countries where extensive secular vetting has begun to occur – France, Australia, and the United States – a total of 12,400 priest abusers are now acknowledged, and the numbers continue to climb as new allegations are made on a daily basis. These countries comprise 9% of the world's 1.2 billion Catholic population. If we extrapolate these numbers to a worldwide count, we would expect that there would be more than 120,000 abusers in the Church and on the order of 1.2 million victims across the globe.
France appears to be showing an abuse rate of 2.78% - 3200 abusers since 1950. This is an extremely low percentage, given that Australia admits to 7% (1,880) and the US is tracking at 6.4% (7,300). We believe it is likely that the French bishops may have suppressed information, something that was also true in the US and Australia prior to the secular vetting that occurred in those countries. The bigger question though is which abusers are still alive, where are they, and what are they doing? Those perpetrators could still pose a danger to innocent lives.
Revelations into the handling of Fr. Bernard Preynat by French Catholic officials, including the former Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, demonstrated how high-ranking clergy were willing to flout the law to protect their reputations at the expense of the children in the Archdiocese. A ten-minute review of SNAP's database in the United States found two French priests who abused multiple children in just one state, Frs. Jules Convert and Rene Astruc. It appears that Fr. Convert may have abused as many as 35 children in Alaska. The cleric then returned to France where he worked in a small alpine parish for 16 years. We wonder why both of them were sent to the United States, and we would expect that Fr. Convert at least is included on the French list of abusers.
Marc Artzrouni, SNAP Europe shared this prior to the report's release, "the discussion in France which has led the media to use the term "pedocriminality" instead of "paedophilia." The former makes the criminal aspect obvious, the latter implies a mere "liking" of children, words matter."
Because of the systemic nature of cover-ups identified worldwide, we strongly urge France's secular authorities to launch their own investigation and determine who abused, who enabled abuse, who is still a danger to the public, either as an abuser or an enabler, and what can be done to prevent devastating harm from occurring in the future.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, is the world's oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is www.snapnetwork.org
Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, (267-261-0578 [email protected]), Marc Artzrouni, SNAP Europe, ([email protected], +33 - 6 95 73 65 92), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected] ), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President (814-341-8386, [email protected] ), Becky Ianni, Virginia State SNAP Leader (703-801-6044, [email protected]