The French Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE) reported Tuesday that clergy, monks, or nuns sexually abused an estimated 216,000 children during a 70-year period.
CIASE released its report after investigating French Catholic churches for over two and a half years. The report proposed detailed measures on issues relating to theology, ecclesiology, and sexual morals, alleging that “certain interpretations or corruptions of doctrine have encouraged abuse and excess.” It also suggested measures relating to church governance, clergy training, and abuse prevention and reporting.
The report claims the church “held unique knowledge of the sexual violence” but nonetheless turned a blind eye. During the investigation, victims shared their stories with investigators who sought to understand “the shame and guilt” victims endured. The report recognized the victims’ experiences, saying, “The long path has been harrowing for many victims for whom it has opened deep wounds and the Commission is intensely conscious of this.”
CIASE President Jean-Marc Sauve formed the commission to achieve four goals: to investigate sexual violence in French Catholic institutions since 1950; to determine whether these sexual abuse cases were reported and addressed; to assess what measures the church took “to treat this scourge”; and to make useful recommendations. Sauve chose commission members based on competence and impartiality and allowed them to determine the work program without any budget restrictions.
CIASE investigators hope the report will inspire victims and the church to work toward a common future established through truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation. They asked the church to reestablish the “severely tested” alliance by regaining “the trust of Christians and the respect of the French people in whose society [the church] has a full role to play.”
Director of the Holy See Press Office Matteo Bruni shared that Pope Francis expressed sorrow for the victims after reading the report. Bruni also said Pope Francis is grateful to the victims for their courage to speak out so that the Church of France “may take the path of redemption.”