The French bishops conference has said that nine priests and deacons are currently in prison for sexually abusing minors and 26 more clergy are being investigated by judicial authorities in such cases. A further 37 have served their sentences and been released.
The results of a recent survey of French dioceses with their 15,000 priests were released as the bishops presented an updated edition of “Combatting Paedophilia,” their 72-page guidebook for dealing with sexual abuse.
The survey and the guidebook reflected the bishops’ efforts in recent years to reorient their approach in the abuse issue to better reflect the suffering of victims. The failure to do so in the past led to the current abuse scandal in Lyon, where Cardinal Philippe Barbarin has had to admit he was slow to react in the case of a priest now awaiting both civil and canonical trials for his repeated abuse in the 1980s.
The survey noted the current 26 civil investigations were half the total reported in 2010. Since that time, 137 claims of clerical sexual abuse of minors have been made to judicial officials.
Some 222 victims have come forward in recent years, some with accusations against priests who have since died and others concerning cases beyond the statute of limitations. More than 60% of these cases dated from before 1970, 35% between 1970 and 2000 and 4% since 2000, a statement by the bishops conference said.
The total of claims in the report is below that reported by a Lyon victims defence group, which says it has received claims from over 400 victims.
The bishops’ turn toward victims was reflected in the new booklet. While the 2010 edition said abuse led to a psychological “destabilisation” of victims, the new edition stresses the suffering they endure. “Nothing would be worse than to ignore the suffering of the victims,” it says.
PICTURE - Cardinal Philippe Barbarin has had to admit that he was slow to react in the case of a priest now awaiting both civil and canonical trials for his repeated abuse in the 1980s in Lyon