France’s government has summoned the head of the French bishops’ conference after he said that secrets shared in the confessional are above the law, as the country reels from new revelations of large-scale child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
Monsignor Eric de Moulins-Beaufort shocked some people in France when he told France-Info radio Wednesday that
“the secrets of confession are stronger than the laws of the republic.”
The comments came in response to recommendations in a study released Tuesday estimating that some 330,000 children were sexually abused over 70 years by priests or other church-related figures and that the French Catholic church systematically covered up these sexual abuses by clergymen and lay personnel over the past seven decades. About 60 per cent of the victims were boys. The long-awaited findings of the 18-month inquiry were even more devastating than expected, Jean-Marc Sauvé, who led the investigation, said.
“Until the early 2000s the Catholic church showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims.”
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal insisted Thursday that
“nothing is stronger than the laws of the republic.”
The bishop has been summoned for a meeting next week with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, Attal said.
According to Catholic doctrine, the confessional seal is inviolable, and the Catholic Church has refused similar demands to force priests to report sex crimes that they learn about in confession to police.
In response to the French study, Pope Francis I expressed “shame” for himself and the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday for the scale of child sexual abuse within the church in France. French President Emmanuel Macron said that
“there is a need for truth and compensation.”
he said. The “failures and silence” of the church were “systemic”. Sauvé, a retired senior civil servant, said the investigation had found that
“the Catholic church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence”.
The church must financially compensate all the victims of the paedophile crimes whether or not they could be proven and
“must not view the payments as a gift but as a duty”,
The French report echoed investigations into sexual abuse in the Catholic churches of Germany, the United States, Australia and other countries. In September the world got to hear the horrible stories of what happened to Native American communities traumatised by government-run boarding schools that tried to destroy Indian culture and how thousands of indigenous children in Canada were molested by priests and people who had to “educate” them.
Police in Northern Ireland on Wednesday announced an investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at church-run institutions that housed unmarried women and their children.
The announcement came a day after an independent panel recommended a public inquiry to examine human rights abuses in the homes, so-called Magdalene laundries and workhouses.
The sexual abuse of children and adolescents by Roman Catholic priests entails a violation of meaning as well as persons. Precisely because the priest is regarded by Catholics as an alter Christus, another Christ, his violation of a child’s or adolescent’s body is also a violation of a sacred trust and worldview and damages the name of Christ and the Body of Christ, the community of followers of Christ.
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