A significant report on child sex abuse in the French Catholic Church, created by an independent commission and released Tuesday, shed light on thousands of cases of child sex abuse over the last 70 years.
Over seven decades, the 2,500-page dossier describes how an estimated 3,000 child abusers, two-thirds of whom were priests, worked in the Catholic Church in France.
When lay members of the Church, such as instructors at Catholic institutions, are included, the estimated number of victims is considered to be more than 300,000, according to Jean-Marc Sauve, the president of the panel that produced the study.
What was the composition of the commission, and what were its findings?
The Church requested the committee, led by former civil servant Jean-Marc Sauve and included sociologists, magistrates, law professors, theologians, and members of other religious organizations. As part of their efforts, they analyzed Church, judicial, press, and police files together.
"About 60% of men and women who were sexually abused encounter major problems in their sentimental or sexual life," Sauve told the press on Tuesday.
According to Sauve, the Church's stance toward its victims was "deep, cruel indifference" until the last twenty years.
Twenty-two of the alleged offenses has been referred to French prosecutors, with the possibility of further legal action. Forty cases have been sent to church officials where the statute of limitations has expired, but the alleged perpetrators are still alive.
"The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence." according to the research.
Training for priests and other clerics, revision of the legal code used by the Vatican to regulate the Church, known as Canon Law, and policies that recognize and compensate victims are recommendations for preventing abuse.
What has been the reaction of the victims?
Francois Devaux was one of the victims of Bernard Peynat, an infamous priest. After being found guilty of sexually abusing adolescents and sentenced to five years in jail, the latter was defrocked.
Peynat admitted to assaulting more than 75 boys over decades in a case that led to Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the former archbishop of Lyon, resigning last year.
Devaux is also the founder of the "La Parole Liberee" victims' association (The Liberated Word). Because "a minimum" he believes the number of victims in the report is "some victims did not dare to speak out or trust the commission."
Devaux told The Associated Press that the French church "hasn't understood" or continues to downplay the problem.
He believes the Church should admit the problem and compensate victims of clergy and other church employees who have sexually abused children.
"It is indispensable that the church redresses the harm caused by all these crimes, and compensation is the first step," Devaux added.
What steps has the Vatican taken to address the issue?
Pope Francis released a new church decree in May 2019 that mandates Catholic priests and nuns worldwide to report sex abuse by clergy members, as well as attempts by superiors to cover it up, to church officials — but not the police.
Pope Francis rejected Cardinal Reinhard Marx's resignation over the mishandling of child sex abuse cases in June of this year. Marx is a papal counselor who also serves as the archbishop of Munich and Freising.
On the other hand, the pope concluded that reform was required and that each bishop has some responsibility for the "catastrophe" created by child sex abuse in the Church.