French Catholic Church sexual abuse: The devil lives in holy place
Published: Oct 21, 2021 03:49 PM
French Catholic Church Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

French Catholic Church Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Perpetrators cannot live with the truth; victims cannot live without it.  

A recently released 2,500-page report from an independent Commission on Sexual Abuse led by Jean-Marc Sauvé revealed that since 1950, some 216,000 children, mostly boys, have been sexually abused by French Catholic clergy. Taking account of abuses committed by lay members of the Church, such as teachers at Catholic schools, the number rises to 330,000.

What's behind the staggering number is that child sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church has evolved into a systemic crime. Out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics, as many as 3,200 have committed child sexual abuse, and this was probably an underestimation.

In France, God's messengers are reduced to the devils, and the sacred place degenerated into a perverts club, no less. 

To whitewash itself, the Church has been covering up the crimes. "There was a whole bunch of negligence, deficiency, silence, and institutional cover-up," wrote Sauvé in the report. Seal of confession in the Catholic Church is an easy excuse to dodge inspections and shirk responsibilities. Guilty priests were harbored rather than punished. "Deep, total and even cruel indifference" is the only thing that the French Catholic Church has shown to the victims. 

As indifferent as the French Catholic Church is the French government. For all the recurring nightmares for the past 70 years, the French authorities failed to intervene effectively in endemic pedophilia and sexual abuse in the Church. Not a single bill to regulate the Church was passed in the French Parliament.

By contrast, France appears to have taken a hard-line stance towards Muslims in France. In February, French lawmakers passed a bill titled "Supporting Respect for the Principles of the Republic," pressuring Muslims to accept France's republican values, with the aim of strengthening oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard France from "radical Islamism." 

Since the French government has the ability to oversee "radical Muslims," why has it failed to take any meaningful actions to detect and stop the mass atrocity crimes committed by the Church for decades?

The French government's double-standard on the two religions has laid bare its hypocrisy and discrimination. 

In a country where Catholic believers account for 60 percent of the population, many French politicians tend to be pussyfooting around the Church scandals. So-called republican values like respecting human rights are merely rhetoric serving for political purpose. For many French politicians, votes are much dearer than human rights, and appeasing the Church and winning its support are far more important than ending the sufferings of sexually abused minors. 

With the inaction and connivance of the French authorities, the appalling crimes are ceaselessly committed and the tragedies keep repeating in a county well-known for its national motto Liberté, égalité, fraternité and preening on its status as a champion for human rights. 

On this utterly shameful scandal, the French Catholic Church owes a debt to the victims, so does the French government. 

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to uncover the truth and compensate for the victims. The whole world is now watching how France will be able to remove the gangrene inside its body and psyche.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, CGTN, China Daily, etc. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com