Sexual abuse in the Church: The recommendations of the CIASE

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) mandated by the Conference of Bishops of France and the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France published its report yesterday, Tuesday, October 5. It contains a series of 45 recommendations. 

The result of two years of work, the rapport of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) published yesterday and presented by its president Jean-Marc Sauvé reveals damning conclusions.

During his presentation, Jean-Marc Sauvé urged the Catholic Church to take up its responsibilities individually and systemically and to rethink its organization in depth. He concluded his speech with a call for change tinged with hope:

“Our hope cannot and will not be destroyed and the church can and should do whatever is necessary to restore what has been damaged and rebuild what has been broken. "

To "restore what has been damaged" and "rebuild what has been broken" the commission formulated a list of 45 recommendations.

Toll-free number, ethics guide, doctrinal work

The Sauvé commission proposes a series of initiatives to be put in place to prevent abuse and to support victims. In particular, she invites the Church to create a toll-free number for victims of sexual violence. It also encourages the publication of "an ethical guide and good practices of spiritual accompaniment by emphasizing the distinction between the responsibility of government and spiritual accompaniment to avoid abuses". The creation of a service common to CEF and CORREF which would be responsible for collecting, processing and analyzing this phenomenon is also part of their recommendations. The CIASE finally encourages the Church to deepen the doctrinal work already underway in order to better “understand how bad trees could bear good fruit”.

Supervise teaching

According to the commission, care must be taken in the teaching given in theological faculties, seminaries or diocesan formations so that they are always accompanied by a "conscience enlightened by a critical intelligence". While the teaching of the different religious orders and the rules of the so-called new communities must, according to the CIASE, be scrutinized. Emphasis is also placed on "the exercise of critical awareness in all circumstances" with regard in particular to the teaching of catechesis to the youngest and adolescents. "The word must be taken only to be given" write the report's writers who believe it is important to teach that the Gospels "set an example of one word as dynamic, not of power over another , but with the will to make it grow and happen ”. They claim that it is both critical and spiritual reading of the Bible that should be offered "at all levels of training."

Review the vision of sexuality

The CIASE encourages the Church to rethink the way in which the vision of sexuality is transmitted and proposes to sift through what “the paradoxical excess of fixation of Catholic morality on sexual questions can have counterproductive in matters of struggle. against sexual abuse ”. She also urges him to encourage doctrinal reflection on this subject so that “doctrine on sexuality is not separated from the demands of the social doctrine of the Church and from the equal dignity of every human person”.

The Church must take its responsibilities

The question of the responsibility of the Church is particularly important in order to be able to move forward towards the future, as underlined by the report which proposes to recognize the civil and social responsibility of the Church "independently of any personal fault of its leaders" for " the entire period analyzed by the commission ”. The commission also invites the Church to recognize its systemic responsibility which should lead it to "examine the factors which contributed to its institutional failure". She also invites him to recognize "that the social and spiritual role of the Church places a particular responsibility on her within the society of which she is a part". Finally, it encourages him to recognize his “civic” responsibility, a basis to be deepened in order to have “a horizontal exchange with the whole of society”.

The question of celibacy

If the commission does not directly recommend abolishing celibacy for priests, which is not pointed out in the report as a cause of abuse, it invites the Church to identify "the ethical requirements of consecrated celibacy in the eyes, in particular, of the representation of the priest and of the risk which would consist in conferring on him a heroic position or of domination ”. She adds to encourage the Church in France to evaluate “the perspectives opened up by all the reflections of the Amazon Synod, in particular the request that 'ad experimentum, […] be ordained priests of married men who fulfill the conditions that Saint Paul asks the pastors in the First Letter to Timothy ”.

Strengthen the presence of the laity

Regarding the governance of the Church, the commission considers that it is necessary "to greatly strengthen the presence of lay people in general and women in particular in the decision-making spheres of the Catholic Church". A change that will require "a prior inventory and the determination of objectives and an implementation schedule".

Church law

The report tends to show the weakness of the Church's law with regard to the management of sexual abuse and calls for in-depth reform. He proposes in particular to "define within the code of canon law all sexual offenses committed against a minor or a vulnerable person, by highlighting the constituent elements of each of the offenses and the corresponding penalties, in order to increase the readability of this right, to bring out the scale of seriousness of the breaches and to harmonize the interpretation of the reference standards ”. The commission considers it important to set up "without delay" an interdiocesan canonical penal tribunal "while ensuring the effectiveness and appearance of its competence and impartiality". It also invites the Church to "bring canonical criminal procedure into conformity with international standards on fair trial" to guarantee "in particular for injured persons, the right to a remedy, in particular through effective access to a court and by the free choice of his lawyer ”.

Recognition of victims 

Finally, CIASE urges the Church to try to repair the harm that has been caused. Jean-Marc Sauvé affirms it:

“The Church must recognize its responsibility for the living victims, the damage that has been done must be repaired. Financial compensation for these victims should not be seen as a gift, but as due. "

Thus, the report recommends individualizing "the calculation of the compensation due to each victim, without however providing for full compensation in the legal sense of the term" and to provide as such "a method of calculation aimed at compensating the damage. specific suffered by each direct victim and, in the event of the latter's death, the indirect victim ”. With regard to financial reparation, the report invites the Church to entrust the “threefold mission of welcoming the victims, of offering mediation between them, the aggressors […] and the institutions to which they belonged at the time of the attack. 'aggression, and to arbitrate disputes that cannot be resolved amicably' to an independent body. The commission adds in its recommendations, the establishment of “concrete mechanisms for the recognition” of victims in the form of “public ceremonies, liturgical celebrations commemorating the suffering inflicted; memorial to the victims and their suffering; capacity of questioning of perpetrators and information of victims by the Church ”.

Camille Westphal Perrier

Article originally published in October 2021.

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