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2 Oct, 2018 02:27

French Catholics demand parliament investigate child sex abuse by priests

French Catholics demand parliament investigate child sex abuse by priests

A group of French Catholics has urged the parliament to establish a special commission tasked with investigating reports of pedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church, which they say continues to ignore and cover the abuse.

"We call for the creation of a parliamentary investigative commission to probe the crimes of pedophilia and their concealment within the Catholic Church," says the petition published by the French Catholic weekly Temoignage Chretien, adding that the church in France is a subject to the law and cannot escape justice. 

The instances of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church are not some isolated cases but a "systemic problem" acknowledged by the Pope himself, the petition says, adding that this problem cannot just be left for the Church to sort it out all by itself as "an interested party cannot be the judge."

"Today in our country the Catholic Church thinks it is enough to repeat the words of the Pope without taking any significant initiative to look into these crimes ... and especially their institutional and structural causes," the petition says, adding that the Church still prefers to either "ignore" or even "conceal" such instances of abuse.

The petitioners then cited the examples of Australia, Ireland and the US state of Pennsylvania, where "bodies, which are independent from the ecclesial institutions," have been created. At the same time, the petitioners said that their aim is not to "stir up a scandal but to end" the already existing "immense one" linked to the "deafening silence of the Catholic hierarchy in the face of suffering, which has, for the most part, been ignored or even concealed for too long."

The petition, which was published on Sunday, has already been supported by some French public figures and politicians, including the former health minister Roselyne Bachelot and MP Jacques Maire, who represents President Emmanuel Macron's 'The Republic on the move!' party. Two Socialist senators, Laurence Rossignol and Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie, also backed the appeal.

Some members of the French clergy also spoke favorably of the initiative. Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit said he has nothing against the "outside intervention" into the Church affairs "if the society believes it is important for [achieving] clarity and getting to the bottom of the issue."

Others, however, were seemingly more reluctant to support the measure that would put additional spotlight on the Church. The Church should not be "the only institution targeted," Luc Crepy, the bishop of the commune of Puy-en-Velay and the head of the Permanent Unit against Pedophilia, told the French media.

"It is a global problem of society," he added, warning that the Church "should not become a scapegoat" and saying that such commission should instead investigate all educational institutions working with children. "It would be unfair to say that the Church of France is doing nothing in the fight against pedophilia," he said, adding that "it may not be enough but a lot has been done in the last two years."

The developments come as the Roman Catholic Church is facing numerous accusation of child sex abuse within its ranks in many countries. A 1,400-page Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, released in August, accused over 300 'predator priests' of sex abuse, and the Roman Catholic Church of covering it up for decades.

In 2017, the Australian Royal Commission concluded that more than 4,000 children – mostly boys – were allegedly sexually abused by Catholic priests over decades, adding that since the 1950s some 7 percent of priests in the country were alleged perpetrators.

In mid-September, an explosive report leaked to the German media revealed that as many as 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014 in Germany. The Church also failed to avoid the scandalous incidents involving child sex abuse in France. One of the France's most prominent cardinals, Philippe Barbarin, is due to stand trial in January 2019 on charge of covering for a known pedophile priest in the city of Lyon.

In the face of this wave of accusations, the Vatican said in September that it would summon the presidents of every national bishops’ conference across the globe for a summit on preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children, which is scheduled for February 2019.

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