As many as 3,200 pedophiles worked in French Catholic Church since 1950, commission finds

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France | Wikimedia Commons/Gary Todd

As many as 3,200 pedophiles have worked in the French Catholic Church since the 1950s, according to the head of an independent commission created to investigate sexual abuse in the church.

Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of the commission comprised of 21 people and financed by the Bishops' Conference of France, was interviewed by CNN on Sunday about the commission's work.

Ahead of the scheduled release of the commission's final report Tuesday, Sauvé estimated that between 2,900 and 3,200 pedophile clergy were working in the Catholic Church in France from the 1950s to the present.

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"We had to cross historical, sociological, medical and psychiatric perspectives. We had to call upon skills in the area of child protection, social work, questions of abuse and also bring to bear skills in the area of theology and law," explained Sauvé.

"We worked a lot with the victims, and we did not delegate the task of listening to all the victims to research laboratories. Of course, the research laboratories did some of the hearings, but we conducted a large number of hearings ourselves."

The commission was launched in 2018, and members of the commission aren't paid. Sauvé told Agence-France Presse that the report looks at the "institutional" and "cultural" mechanisms that allowed pedophiles to continue working in the Catholic Church. The report will offer 45 proposals.

He added that the commission is made up of legal professionals, historians, theologians, doctors and sociologists. 

According to CNN, the archives of the dioceses and churches were made accessible to the commission. Sauvé assured that much work has gone into creating the report over the last 32 months. 

Over the past several years, the Roman Catholic Church has dealt with revelations of sexually abusive clergy and high-ranking officials covering up these criminal actions.

Responses to the crisis have included enacting more transparency and accountability regarding sexual abuse allegations and overseeing investigations on the extent of the abuse.

In May of 2019, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter requiring clergy to report abuse. The previous standard allowed church officials their own discretion on the matter.

The new guidelines, which also sought to provide better protection for whistleblowers and victims, came months after the pontiff held a summit on combating sexual abuse in the Church.

The French Catholic Church's commission was established before Pope Francis mandated new requirements for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. 

During the February 2019 summit attended by approximately 200 church leaders, Francis stressed that the Church must fight "this evil afflicting the Church and humanity."

"I wanted to consult you, Patriarchs, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Religious Superiors and Leaders, so that together we might listen to the Holy Spirit and, in docility to his guidance, hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice," stated Francis at the time.

"The holy People of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken. We need to be concrete."

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