The Roman Catholic Church has abused more than 300,000 French children since 1950, according to an explosive report that an independent commission has just released. The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds the work of the investigators and once again urges the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate a similar, long-overdue investigation.
Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, said that the Catholic Church had shown “deep, total and even cruel indifference toward victims.” To put the numbers into perspective, the French clerics or church-related laypersons on average abused one child or minor every two hours for 70 years.
The major report includes many first-hand accounts of abuse, such as one survivor who described being raped as a fifth-grader by a cigar-smoking priest on a camping trip. The priest instructed the child to sleep close to the entrance of his tent so that the priest could easily access him at night. “I felt like I was part of a game to him, waiting for him to come out of his lair,” the survivor said.
The staggering number of victims, including more than a quarter of a million young boys (who were 80 percent of the reported victims), confirms yet again the Catholic Church’s history of systematically harboring and protecting abusers. The massive, 2,500-page report took three years to compile. It estimated the number of perpetrators at about 3,000 priests or clerics, collectively allowed to abuse hundreds of thousands of children due to what the head of the inquiry called “an institutional cover-up” by the church. The report was based in part on more than 6,000 testimonies from survivors and witnesses.
The abuse and cover-up by the Catholic Church in France is no anomaly. A blistering 1,400-page grand jury report about abuse in Pennsylvania detailed thousands of instances of sexual abuse in six of the state’s eight dioceses. It also revealed disgusting practices, such as when priests would give the most pliable, reticent victims a gold cross, marking the children for predation by other abusive priests.
Washington, D.C., and at least 21 other states have conducted such investigations, with similar results. Earlier this year, following requests by FFRF and other groups, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul initiated an investigation that the Milwaukee Archdiocese is refusing to fully cooperate with.
FFRF has repeatedly called for a federal investigation into clergy child sex abuse in the United States, asking both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Merrick Garland to take action.
Just in the United States, we have seen major abuse cases settled in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, Delaware, Houston, Dallas, Iowa, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Buffalo, San Diego, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Louisville, Denver, Portland, Phoenix, Seattle, Ohio, Kentucky, Montana, and more. This pattern has been taken seriously enough by other countries that they have launched national investigations, including Germany, Australia, Ireland and others in addition to the French investigation that led to the recent report. Every one of these reports reveals a shocking prevalence of abuse and cover-up by the church.
“The United States is decades behind other countries in holding churches accountable for complicity in child sex abuse,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, who authored the first nonfiction book on abuse in the church in 1988, published by FFRF. “It has been clear beyond any doubt that this is a systemic problem, and every new report confirms that, all around the world. A federal investigation is long overdue.”