A memorial for clergy abuse victims is a must, says advocate

La Croix International [France]

November 7, 2023

By Alice d’Oléon (in Paris) | France

Interview with Laëtitia Atlani-Duault, university vice-president and member of France’s Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in Catholic French Church (CIASE)

“A place of remembrance for victims is absolutely essential, alongside other forms of reparation,” says Laëtitia Atlani-Duault, a member of France’s Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE). 

The 51-year-old social anthropologist, who is vice-president of Université Paris Cité, says “remembrance work” is essential to implementing the finding of CIASE, commonly called the “Sauvé Commission”.

That’s why she and other experts gathered last Saturday at the Centre Sèvres, the Jesuit’s university level school of theology and philosophy in Paris, for a day of reflection on remembering sexual violence in the Church.

Atlani-Duault told La Croix’s Alice d’Oléon that this is essential for both the victims and the Church.

La Croix: Why is it necessary to examine this question of remembrance?

Laëtitia Atlani-Duault : Remembrance work is a continuation of CIASE’s work, which marked a turning point in French society. The strength of the Sauvé Commission lay in the fact that it drew on and remained close to the words of the victims, who gave rise to a different view of the Church. 

Victims don’t just recount the facts, they also contribute their expertise on the Church, its governance, its doctrine and its relationship with society. Their testimonies reveal both the “banality of evil” and its systemic nature, made possible by the abusers’ hijacking, if not outright misuse, of authority and the sacred.

These analyses were possible because the victims’ voices were at the heart of the process, through the hearings conducted by the commission members and the letters received, with their analysis and the co-construction, with the victims, of recommendations. This method left its mark on people’s minds. 

Indeed, by listening to victims in order to learn from them, and by highlighting their expertise on the violence that befell them and on the system that allowed this violence to occur, CIASE has opened up a new path, one that both victims’ groupsa and the Church in France want to pursue through the creation of a place of remembrance.

Why do the victims of sexual violence in the Church need this work of remembrance?

L. A.-D.: It’s essential to the process of reparation, and a duty of responsibility towards the victims. It will make it possible to acknowledge once again the central place of their words, and to recognize the responsibility of the aggressors and of the institution for the faults committed within it. 

Finally, it will serve as a call to vigilance, since, as we can see, sexual violence in the Church is unfortunately not just a thing of the past. This will remain the case for as long as institutional reforms are not carried out to address the systemic nature of such violence.

A place of remembrance for victims is therefore absolutely essential, alongside other forms of reparation. After all, it should not be forgotten that the people who testified before CIASE are first and foremost seeking justice, whether before the courts or via the two compensation commissions set up by the Church in France, which are just as essential when it comes to reparation.

Is this work of remembrance also a responsibility of the Church?

L. A.-D.: This responsibility has been recognized by the Church in France for several years now. In March 2021, a report by the bishops’ plenary assembly called for the creation of a memorial site and, on behalf of the victims, an association had already put forward a project for a memorial site. That same year, the CIASE report also recommended the creation of a “memorial for victims, tangible or virtual”, noting that the choice of form should be left to the victims themselves.

What might such a memorial look like?

L. A.-D.: That’s what this study day is all about. What shapes, in what places, with whom? Should it be tangible or virtual? A number of venues? Commemoration days? Plaques? Dedicated times? 

All these questions testify to the difficulty of settling on a project, and the importance of thinking it through with others, while drawing inspiration from what is being done abroad. The purpose of the study day at the Centre Sèvres is also meant to encourage concrete implementation, and accelerate the process, beyond words.

Read more at: https://international.la-croix.com/news/ethics/a-memorial-for-clergy-abuse-victims-is-a-must-says-advocate/18645