By Juliette Jabkhiro
PARIS (Reuters) – A group of victims of sexual abuse says the Catholic church is reacting too slowly to a report revealing assaults by French clergy on more than 200,000 children, and is urging President Emmanuel Macron to raise the issue directly with Pope Francis on Monday.
Macron is meeting the pontiff in the Vatican a year after a 2,500 page report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse detailed how the church repeatedly silenced victims and failed to discipline the clergy involved.
Ahead of Macron’s visit to the Vatican, the president’s office said the subject had been addressed with the pope in the past, and that it was not likely to be brought up on Monday.
“It’s about protecting the most vulnerable, especially children,” Olivier Savignac, a former abuse victim and co-founder of the Parler et Revivre association (Talk and Live Again) told Reuters.
The church had shown “deep, total and even cruel indifference for years,” protecting itself rather than the victims of systemic abuse, Jean-Marc Sauve, head of the independent commission that compiled the report, said at the time of publication.
The French conference of bishops (CEF) described the report as a “bombshell”. Its head said the church had been shamed, asked for forgiveness and promised to act.
Savignac said that the creation of two bodies by the French Catholic Church to collect victims’ testimonies and offer reparations was a good start, but that the process was too slow.
“Some (victims) have contacted us because they have heard nothing since coming forward, and they’re in great distress,” he added.
Many cases are covered by the statute of limitations, but state prosecutors have been alerted of more recent cases.
The report sent shockwaves across the French catholic community.
Francis at the time expressed gratitude towards victims for having the courage to come forward.
But since then, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse, established by the CEF in late 2018, has not been received by Francis, said Christophe Henning of the Catholic French newspaper La Croix.
“Some feel like things are not moving fast enough,” Henning said.
(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro; Additional reporting by John Irish, editing by Richard Lough, William Maclean)