France: report on abuse in the Church

Over the past 70 years roughly 330,000 children have been victims of sexual abuse within the French Catholic Church, according to a report compiled by an independent commission of inquiry over two and a half years. Europe's media discuss what changes are needed after the shocking revelations.

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Público (PT) /

It's a man's world

Sexual violence is inherent to male-dominated structures, Público concludes:

“The Church is becoming a circus of sexual violence because sexual violence is the culmination of the patriarchal status quo, and the hierarchy of the Church is now an exclusive group of men who see themselves as part of a sacred mission (the ideas of glory and narcissism are not only fed by men of politics, but also by men of faith). It is impossible for an exclusive group of men not to be sympathetic or even supportive of sexual violence. The exercise of sexual violence is the last bastion of patriarchal power: men can do anything, even invade the bodies of third parties.”

Slate (FR) /

The Catholic Church's Chernobyl

The Catholic Church will face a catastrophe unless it makes drastic changes, warns Gino Hoel, a writer for the progressive Catholic magazine Golias, in a guest commentary for Slate:

“In any other institution the leadership would resign after such a report. We're not going down that road, and for many victims this reinforces the sense of the clergy's impunity and lack of accountability. ... One can imagine, however, that more reports will follow in other countries. So the Church must undertake profound reforms if it does not want to be destroyed by attacks of various kinds which increasingly resemble Catholicism's very own Chernobyl.”

Avvenire (IT) /

A Church that has taken the wrong path

Only a genuine process of atonement can restore credibility, warns the daily Avvenire, which has close ties to the Catholic Church:

“It's not about how to ask for forgiveness, but how to atone. ... The frightening figures in the dossier on 70 years of abuse in the French Church speak not of a Church that has lost its way, but of one that has taken the wrong path. The credibility of our process of atonement requires a resolutely new approach that can block the path of false vocations and must demand proof of integrity.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Mea culpas not enough

The Church in France must now respond firmly with reforms and positive action, writes The Irish Times:

“The challenge for the French Church now will be to go beyond the abject mea culpas of the last two days. Compensation, recommended by the commission, must be forthcoming from the Church for all identifiable victims, whether or not the statute of limitations on specific offences has run out. And, internally, the Church must institute rigorous vetting of those who work or associate with children, priests must undergo child protection training, while mandatory reporting is vital whether or not it conforms with canon law.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Examine the role of sexuality

The report should prompt reflection on the causes - not only within the church, Le Figaro says:

“For several years the Church has been considering reforms that could restore its status as a 'safe house', as Pope Francis put it. The work of the Sauvé Commission will help it do that. There is much to be done, and the reappraisal is not just about hastily introduced buzzwords like clericalism and marriage for priests. Because of course the mental instability of the perpetrators must be examined against the background of the Church and its system, but also against the background of our society and the role that sexuality - with its dark side, pornography - has assumed in it.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Polish Church should follow suit

Gazeta Wyborcza comments:

“In Poland we can only dream of a report like the one in France. A good but solitary step was the appointment of an independent commission to investigate the abuses among the Polish Dominicans. After years hiding a rapist and manipulator, the order finally decided to come clean and asked journalist Tomasz Terlikowski for help. He then put together a team of specialists. ... The nearly 300-page report gives a detailed account of abuse and neglect. ... It was excellent proof that we in Poland can also deal with such cases if the will to do so exists. The problem is that the leaders of the Polish Church lack the will.”