French hotline for Church sex abuse received 6,500 calls in 17 months

Channel News Asia
November 11, 2020

A Catholic worshipper is seen in Paris, Nov. 1, 2020.

An independent commission set up by the Catholic Church in France to investigate claims of sex abuse by priests said on Wednesday (Nov 11) it had received 6,500 calls in 17 months from alleged victims and witnesses.

A hotline line set up for this purpose was closed on Oct 31.

Jean-Marc Sauve, who leads the commission, told a video conference of religious bodies that 62 per cent of the callers were men, and nearly 90 per cent of the allegations concerned crimes against minors.

About a third said they were aged between six and ten when they were targeted, and about another third aged 11 to 15.

Half of the reported cases dated to the 1950s and 60s, 18 per cent from the 1970s, 12 per cent from the 1980s, 7 per cent from the 1990s, and 5.7 per cent in the decade from 2010.

About a third of the alleged abuses happened at schools, and some 12 per cent at youth programmes and summer camps.

Sauve said there was a deep need "for individual and collective recognition of the victims and what they experienced".

And he said this could not be resolved "only by payment of a sum of money, especially if it were to be accompanied by an injunction to remain silent".

Last November, French bishops approved a programme of payouts to victims of sex abuse by priests.

In May last year, Pope Francis passed a landmark new measure obliging anyone in the Church who knew about sex abuse to report it to their superiors.

"We have to continue the work of acknowledging our institutional and political responsibility," Veronique Magron, president of France's Corref religious conference, said Wednesday.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by a wave of allegations detailing decades of sexual abuse by clerics around the world, mostly involving minors.

Pope Francis's former envoy to France, 75-year-old Luigi Ventura, went on trial in Paris on Tuesday for sexual assault following accusations he groped five men during public ceremonies.

In March, defrocked Catholic priest Bernard Preynat was given a five-year jail term by a French court for sexually abusing boy scouts in his care several decades ago.

But in January, an appeals court overturned the conviction of Preynat's superior, Lyon's former archbishop Philippe Barbarin, for not reporting the abuse despite knowing about it for years.


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