Sexual abuse in the Church: The French Bishops' Conference announces its reparation program

Monday, November 8, the bishops of France meeting in Lourdes voted for important measures in the fight against sexual abuse in the Church.

THEPlenary assembly fall of the bishops of France was held from Tuesday 2 to Monday 8 November 2021 in the sanctuary of Lourdes. The opportunity for the bishops to return to the report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).

A little over a month after the publication of the CIASE report, they wanted to “put themselves under the Word of God which urges them to act by taking measures so that the Church accomplishes her mission in fidelity to the Gospel. of Christ ”, and recognized their responsibilities as bishops in this context.

At the end of this working week, during the press conference which took place on Monday and before presenting the measures voted a few hours earlier to fight against sexual violence, Bishop of Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), lingered on the photo of a child in tears displayed on the screen behind him.

“This child was crying alone, hidden under the vaults of a cathedral. Someone photographed him, someone who recognized himself in him, someone who, too, was a victim and cried thus, petrified, in a church, because of a man of the Church and because of the Church. This face lives in my heart as I speak to you. "

“It is for this crying child, little boy, little girl, teenager or adolescent, that we have reflected, worked, decided. He continued, quoting verses 40 and 45 of Matthew chapter 25, "Whenever you have done it to one of these smallest of my brethren, you have done it to me. have done. Whenever you haven't done it to one of these smallest of my brothers, you haven't done it to me ”.

"It is too late," we said, Saturday the day before yesterday, to console this child. It is not to remember him. "

On the CEF website, A press release details the reform and measures adopted by the Catholic organization. Starting with the creation of an independent national body for the recognition and reparation of sexual abuse in the Church, the presidency of which will be entrusted to Marie Derain de Vaucresson, lawyer, official of the Ministry of Justice and former children's advocate.

Also, they decided to ask Pope Francis "from whom they get their mission", "to send a team of visitors to assess this mission with regard to the protection of minors and to give, if necessary, the follow-up. which are required at the end of their visit ”.

The bishops of France also announced that compensation for victims would be one of their priorities, even if it means drawing on the reserves of the dioceses and the Episcopal Conference, relinquishing real estate or taking out a loan if necessary.

Finally, they committed themselves "to follow up the work of the plenary assembly with the victims and other guests" to set up nine working groups "made up of lay people, deacons, priests, consecrated persons, bishops", "men or women". women ”whose titles are as follows:

  • Sharing of good practices in the face of reported cases
  • Confession and spiritual accompaniment
  • Accompaniment of the priests implicated
  • Vocational discernment and formation of future priests
  • Support for the ministry of bishops
  • Support for the ministry of priests
  • Method of associating the lay faithful in the work of the Conference of Bishops
  • Analysis of the causes of sexual violence within the Church
  • Means of vigilance and control of associations of the faithful leading the common life and of any group relying on a particular charism.

Among the twelve "special measures" adopted in addition by the CEF, the bishops of France also voted for the implementation of an external audit of the listening cells of victims, for the creation of a national canonical criminal court. who will take office on April 1, 2022, or for the systematic verification of the criminal records of all pastoral workers, whether lay or not.

A process which will culminate in the spring of 2023 in a time of global reception of this work "in collaboration with the religious (CORREF) and all the living forces of the Church in France".

Camille Westphal Perrier

Image credit: PIKSL - Aurelien KEMPF / Shutterstock.com

Article originally published in November 2021.

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