France: Church to compensate victims of abuse
The Bishops' Conference of France that met in Lourdes this autumn has decided to set up working groups to combat systemic abuse and sexual violence by the clergy. The Church also committed to creating a reparations body to compensate victims, involving the sale of some of its real estate assets. Commentators are impressed.
An exemplary review
The French have taken longer than other Catholic communities to recognise the scale of the abuse problem, but now they are taking it seriously, La Stampa comments approvingly:
“The Bishops' Conference in Lourdes has decided to compensate all victims. ... And it has begun a process of critical reflection on the way the French Church has been run to date, with working groups presided over by laypersons. ... The idea behind this proposal is clear: if the methods used so far have led to such a profound and systemic lapse on the part of the clergy, then something is wrong. And it will be non-clergy who guide the necessary critical process: a true revolution.”
External help at last
Things have started to move in France's Catholic Church, La Croix also comments enthusiastically:
“These two simple but essential measures mark a turning point. In addition, a change of attitude on the part of the bishops is also discernible. 'We have understood that we need external help,' Monseigneur Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops' Conference of France conceded. This is one of the most encouraging aspects of yesterday's events. The bishops are systematically using external auditing firms, the French judiciary and laypeople in the procedures for hearing victims, compiling investigative protocols and updating diocesan governance. An important step towards a new, more collective view of their authority.”