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Potoval sem z vlakom, ki se med Strasbourgom in Parizom ni ustavljal, temveč je kakšni 2 uri neprekinjeno hitel s nekaj več kot 300 km/h. Čudovito je bilo, ko sem lahko v tišini zrl s soncem obsijano zemljo in še čudovitejša je bila misel, da sem spet v Franciji, ki mi je tako zelo prirasla k srcu. Nekaj ur kasneje sem prispel v središče Pariza, kjer sem med pavzo nekega sestanka slišal, da bodo francoski škofje čez nekaj dni izdali poročilo raziskave, ki bo zagotovo povzročila marsikatero bolečino. Domov sem se vrnil 3. oktobra. Dva dni kasneje je dejansko sledila tiskovna konferenca s pretresljivo novico poročila o spolnih zlorabah v Cerkvi v Franciji, na kateri je Cerkev objavila splošno poročilo o delu Neodvisne komisije o spolnih zlorabah v Cerkvi (CIASE), ki jo je na podlagi prošnje škofov ter redovnikov in redovnic sestavil Jean Marc Sauvé, nekdanji prvi človek francoskega Conseil d’État. Komisijo je sestavljalo 21 članov, (vrhunskih) strokovnjakov z različnih področij družbenih znanosti, ki so se zdela za takšno delo potrebna: pravo, medicina (posebno psihiatrija), zgodovina, sociologija, psihologija, etika, socialna politika, zdravstvo ter teologija. Komisija je obsežno zbrano gradivo preučevala v 4 delovnih skupinah, in sicer: a) skupina za teološka in cerkvena vprašanja ter vidik vodstva Cerkve; b) skupina za preučevanje razmerja med cerkvenim in državnim pravom, z nalogo razmisleka o možnih reformah cerkvenega prava; c) skupina za žrtve, ki se je obenem ukvarjala s tematiko odgovornosti in poprave škode in sicer pod vidikom obnovitvene pravičnosti (fr. justice restaurative). Ta skupina je delovala v tesnem stiku z zrcalno skupino, sestavljeno iz žrtev. Vse članice te slednje so privolile, da s svojo izkušnjo pripomorejo delu Komisije; č) skupina za ovrednotenje, ki je analizirala način, s katerim je (ali ni) Cerkev obravnavala njej znane primere, kakor tudi ukrepe, ki jih je Cerkev v Franciji uvajala od leta 2000 dalje. Daleč od tega, da francoska Cerkev ne bi nikoli govorila ali vedela za zlorabe, pač pa si nikoli doslej nalila zares čistega vina. Podobno, kot je ameriška Cerkev imela čas do in čas po fenomenu McCarrick. Poročilo CIASE je razdeljeno na 3 vsebinske sklope. Pretočil sem si povzetek poročila, obenem pa sprva nisem imel nobene želje po branju.

Deset dni zatem sem moral ponovno na pot v Pariz, spet sem sedel ob oknu drvečega vlaka in opazoval tisto isto francosko pokrajino. Za mano je bilo branje poročila. Na zunaj se ni spremenilo kaj dosti, navznoter sem doživel nemajhen pretres. Še ne mesec dni nazaj sem bil prevzet od dežele, ki jo vedno bolj štejem za duhovno sidrišče, kaj naj do nje čutim zdaj in kako naj umestim ta šokantna dejstva? In kaj vse bi zvedeli, s čim vse bi se soočili, ko bi bili storili nekaj podobnega v drugih lokalnih Cerkvah?

Le kdo si je nadejal takšne rezultate? Izkazalo se je, da 95% žrtev napadov o njih sploh ni govorilo. Pa tudi to, da je bila ta kuga globoka, sistemska in preprosto – zla. Šok je še toliko večji, ker gre za naš lasten družinski krog, Cerkev, v katerem ta družina – Cerkev – ni naredila (skoraj) nič, da bi to preprečila. Naravnost očarljivo je, s kakšno tenkočutnostjo in spoštljivostjo se je teme lotil in jo v končni fazi tudi predstavil njen predsednik. Dogodke in sklepe je imenoval brez olepševanja, predlogi za spremembe v strukturi Cerkve so zelo konkretni in (vsaj za notranji cerkveni krog in njegov način biti) nekonvencionalni, način komunikacije pa dostojanstven in premočrten. Vse to iz zavedanja, da ne pomaga kaj dosti, če se bo v Cerkev ihtavo zaletaval in jo vse povprek bičal. V končni fazi gre za njegovo lastno državo in za njegove lastne sodržavljane, gre torej tudi za njegovo (tako zelo ranjeno) družino. Občutek je bil torej jasen: stoječ na pogorišču masakra, držeč se upanja, da lahko iz tega zraste nekaj novega. Pogorišče je dramatično, zato sem si vzel čas za njegov ogled, ker ne morem, da si ga ne bi. Poleg tega sem počakal do prve večje reakcije francoskih škofov, ki so se na izrednem delovnem srečanju od 2. do 8. novembra v Lourdesu kakopak osredotočili na to v nebo vpijočo temo. Tovrstni rezultati namreč terjajo več kot samo …

Msgr. Éric de Moulins Beaufort, predsednik francoske škofovske konference, je v sklepnem govoru srečanja škofov 8. novembra 2021 med drugim izrekel te dramatične besede: Zato smo dolžni priznati, da je naša Cerkev kraj hudih zločinov, strašnih napadov na življenje in integriteto otrok in odraslih. Tako vendar ne more biti. To ne more biti Jezusova Cerkev; Cerkev, utemeljena v podaritvi samega sebe Gospoda Jezusa; Cerkev, ki je zrasla iz debla Izraela in ki so jo apostoli naredili odprto vsem narodom … Potrebno je prepoznati in priznati: dovolili smo, da se je razvil cerkveni sistem, ki še zdaleč ne prinaša življenja in se ne odpira duhovni svobodi, temveč uničuje, stiska, tepta človeka in njegove najbolj osnovne pravice. In nekoliko kasneje: Nismo postali duhovniki, da bi sodelovali v morilskih dejanjih. Nismo kristjani, da bi hranili organizem, ki je nevaren za druge. Njegov predlog glede vloge kristjanov v Cerkvi: Vsem ljudem, tudi zločincem, moramo odpreti upanje, da za kesanje, spreobrnjenje in spremembo smeri življenja nikoli prepozno; moramo jim prinesti notranjo moč Kristusa in njegovega Duha … Božjega odpuščanja ni mogoče uporabiti kot izgovor za kogarkoli, ki je storil zločin ali kaznivo dejanje, da bi ušel pred človeško pravico. Nasprotno, odpuščanje bi moralo krivca okrepiti, da bi bil pripravljen odgovarjati za svoja dejanja in nositi posledice. Proti sklepu pa tole: Gremo proti obubožanju naše Cerkve. To si želimo in to pričakujemo v različnih pomenih. Dolgotrajna prisotnost Cerkve v naši deželi nam daje moč, saj je bila marsikje, v mnogih dušah in v mnogih trenutkih vir dobrega in lepega; voljno sprejemamo in prevzemamo težo te preteklosti. Predvsem si pa želimo, da bi lahko prinašali veselo novico odrešenja in da bi se lahko veselili vsakič, ko jo sprejema človek v svoji svobodi.

Ob branju povzetka Poročila sem si delal zapiske. Želel sem dobro razumeti in si dobro zapomniti. Ocenjujem, da so povsem uporabni, ker povzamejo bistvene elemente, sploh pa razložijo dramatičnost trenutka, pretresenost tolikih in težke besede predsednika francoske škofovske konference.

I. Osvetliti situacijo. V grobem lahko prepoznamo 3 obdobja spolnih zlorab v Katoliški cerkvi: a) čas med 1950 in 1970, ki je vrhunec pojava, b) čas med 1970 in 1990, ko prevladuje umirjanje oz. zmanjševanje pojava, ter c) čas od 1990 dalje, ko glede na razpoložljive vire zaznamo očitni ponovni vzpon števila zlorab, brez da bi lahko zagotovo sklepali na točno število. V veliki meri so žrtve spolnega nasilja v Cerkvi dečki pred puberteto iz vseh socialnih okolij. Raziskava je obravnavala tudi polnoletne žrtve in nekoliko več časa posvetila raziskavi zlorabljenih redovnic in bogoslovcev. Pri odraslih žrtvah se ponavljata logika avtoritete, preoblečene v moč in oblast, ter ranljivost. Poteze, ki se izrisujejo ob poslušanju zlorabljajočih glede njihovih lastnih dejanj, so pogosto minimizacija, zanikanje, redko pa tudi celovito priznavanje zločinov. Komisija je prišla do ocene, da je število mladoletnih oseb, žrtev spolnih zlorab v Katoliški cerkvi v Franciji s strani duhovnikov, diakonov, redovnikov ali redovnic med letoma 1950 in 2020 – 216.000. V kolikor spolne zlorabe s strani posvečenih oseb razširimo na vse spolne zlorabe v Cerkvi, pridemo do ocene 330.000 oseb. Iz česar sledi, da se je več kot tretjina spolnih zlorab zgodila s strani laikov. Komisija se je zaradi pomanjkanja metodološke gotovosti odpovedala oceni števila polnoletnih oseb, žrtev spolnih zlorab.

Prvo spoznanje. Kar je znano iz mnogih predhodnih raziskav in pričevanj, izhaja tudi iz raziskave Komisije, da so se namreč spolne zlorabe v obravnavanem obdobju zgodile v ogromni meri. Izmed trenutno živečih Francozinj in Francozov jih je predvidoma 5 500 000 v času njihove mladoletnosti doživelo spolno zlorabo, kar nanese 14,5% vseh žensk in 6,4% vseh moških. Spolne zlorabe s strani posvečenih oseb predstavljajo 4% te številke, v kolikor pa upoštevamo tudi laike v Cerkvi, je delež 6%.

Drugo spoznanje. Četudi se je velika večina spolnih zlorab mladoletnih oseb zgodila znotraj družinskega ali prijateljskega kroga (3,7% trenutno polnoletnih oseb v Franciji je doživelo zlorabo s strani družinskih članov, 2% s strani družinskega prijatelja ter 1,8% s strani prijatelja), je to število v okviru Cerkve precej višje v primerjavi z drugimi okolij socializacije. 1,16% trenutno polnoletnih oseb v Franciji so doživeli zlorabo v Cerkvi, od njih 0,82% s strani posvečene osebe. Za primerjavo, delež v drugih sferah socializacije je ta delež občutno nižji: 0,36% v poletnih taborih, 0,34% v javnih šolah, 0,28% v športnih klubih, ter 0,17% v okviru kulturnih dejavnosti. Z drugimi besedami, razen družinskih in prijateljskih krogov je Cerkev okolje, kjer je delež spolnih zlorab najvišji.

Občutljivo vprašanje je ocena števila duhovnikov in redovnik napadalcev v obravnavanem obdobju. Glede na arhivske podatke se število giba med 2900 in 3200 in predstavlja med 2,5% in 2,8% vseh imenovanih, katerih skupno število je okrog 115 000. Glede na druge raziskave v tujini je to število precej nižje (giblje se med 4,4 in 7,5%), glede na nizozemske študije pa rahlo višji. Sledi torej, da na posamezno osebo pride visoko število žrtev, kar glede na znanstveno literaturo ni nemogoče. Posameznik spolni napadalec ima lahko zelo veliko število žrtev, še posebno, ko gre za ciljno skupino dečkov; v Katoliški cerkvi je velika večina spolnih zlorab ravno tovrstnih. Če torej povzamemo stanje spolnih zlorab v Katoliški cerkvi v Franciji, sledi, da gre za masivni pojav, vse do današnjega časa. Pojav, ki temelji na raznolikih in jasno identificiranih mehanizmih, za katere je značilen sistemski karakter.

II. Odstreti temi del zgodbe. Katoliška cerkev kot institucija ni ščitila žrtev spolnih zlorab. Uporablja kanonsko pravo, ki je zamočilo in ne prepoznava ter upošteva dovolj pravnih obligacij. Za obdobje med 1950 in 1970 je značilna drža prikrivanja škandalov ter reševanja napadalcev, hkrati pa težnja po utišanju glasu žrtev, skupaj s trudom, da njihova pričevanja ne pridejo v javnost. V času med 1970 in 1990 vprašanje spolnih zlorab stopi v ozadje, v ospredje pa pride kriza duhovništva, ki dodatno monopolizira notranje strukture, ki se ukvarjajo s “problematičnimi” kleriki. Od 1990 naprej se drža Cerkve postopno spremeni: zave se obstoja žrtev spolnih zlorab, a jih obenem ne prizna zares. To se zgodi šele po letu 2010, ko se začnejo prijave pri sodnih organih in kanonične sankcije, s čimer se konča zgolj interna obravnava napadalcev. Skratka, Komisija iz obravnavanega gradiva in cerkvene prakse sklepa in ocenjuje, da lahko cerkveno prakso označimo z besedami prikrivanje in relativizacija, včasih zanikanje; resnično priznavanje fenomena je šele zelo nedavno, začenši z letom 2015 in še to neenako glede na škofije in kongregacije. Posledično se ponuja opredelitev pojava kot sistematičnega. Ne, ker bi bili zločini organizirani ali dovoljeni s strani institucije (kar se je sicer zgodilo v malo številnih skupnostih ali institucijah), temveč, ker cerkvena institucija teh zločinov očitno ni znala imenovati, niti preprosto videti, kaj šele odločno in v pravičnosti obravnavati.

Nek določen delež za neustreznost obravnavanja spolnih zlorab s strani Cerkve leži v vrzelih znotraj kanoničnega prava, ki je bil v prvi vrsti zamišljen z namenom zaščite zakramentov – oseba žrtev zlorab ostaja na véliko odsotna – ter bistveno neprilagojen v kazenskem razdelku, ko gre za zatiranje spolnega nasilja. Na drugem mestu in še bolj temeljno je Komisija preučevala deviacije in perverzije, ki jih vzpodbujajo nekatere doktrine in nauki in ki jih papež Frančišek biča: klerikalizem v obliki pretirane sakralizacije osebe duhovnika; previsoko vrednotenje celibata in karizem duhovnika; odstop od pokornosti, ko se ta približa razgradnji vesti; zloraba Božje besede.

III. Razbliniti temine. Cerkev mora prepoznati dejstva in se zavezati k popravi krivic. Ravno tako mora sprejeti odgovornost, tako individualnega kot tudi sistematičnega značaja. Postopki poprave krivic morajo postati sestavni del kazenske obravnave. Cerkev mora vzpostaviti postopek prepoznave narejenih spolnih zlorab ter povrniti povzročeno škodo. Cerkveno vodstvo se mora drugače organizirati, da bo postalo bolj pluralistično in bo s tem reguliralo nevarnost zlorabe oblasti. V tem smislu je formacija eno ključnih področij. Preden zakličemo To se ne sme ponoviti! moramo prepoznati To, ga opredeliti, prepoznati odgovorne in v največji možni meri popraviti posledice. Za Cerkev ne zadostuje, da se zgodi ozaveščenost – prišla je mnogo prepozno – glede situacije. Ravno zato Komisija vztraja, da mora Cerkev opraviti korak resnice in poprave krivic, začenši s priznanjem odgovornosti. Doslej se je tej izogibala. V očeh komisije bi bilo napačno, če bi Katoliška cerkev verjela, da je imuna pred kakršno koli odgovornostjo, ki je sama ni sprejela, ker do danes ni bilo sodne obsodbe, razen na podlagi individualne kazenske odgovornosti napadalcev, ali ker ni bilo uradnih prijav pravosodnemu sistemu. Dejansko je poleg dejstva, da je angažma civilne odgovornosti škofij v pravni državi vse prej kot izključen, zelo možno – celo verjetno – da se zakonodajalec odloči identificirati posledice tragedije spolnega nasilja, storjene v celotnem družbi, da bi vzpostavil mehanizme odškodnin, ki bi bremenile zlasti institucije in skupnosti, v katerih je nastala škoda. Tu ne gre samo za grehe, ki jih je treba priznati, ampak za napake, ki jih je treba popraviti, brez evfemizmov, brez Nismo vedeli, ter brez izgovorov iz naslova družbenega ali institucionalnega konteksta. Ta predpogoj ponižanja brez pretvarjanja je bistvenega pomena za verodostojnost prihodnjih mehanizmov za popravo krivic žrtev, kot jih predlaga komisija.

Komisija predlaga dve glavni poti odziva: tako imenovano obnovitveno pravičnost in vzpostavitev mehanizmov za ugotavljanje resnice ne glede na starost dejanj. Obnovitvena pravičnost skuša popraviti posledice na ravni biti žrtve, vključujoč tudi raven imeti. Kar zadeva upravljanje, komisija, ne da bi oblikovala že pripravljene odgovore na ta vprašanja, ker morajo ti odgovori izhajati iz same Cerkve, slednjo vabi, da poglobljeno preuči očitne napetosti med njeno hierarhično konstitucijo in željo po sinodalnosti po eni strani, ter posledicami koncentracije moči urejanja in upravljanja v škofovih rokah. Kar zadeva kazni, je v luči resnih ugotovitev iz drugega dela poročila in ob upoštevanju reforme kazenskega dela zakonika kanonskega prava, ki bo začela veljati 8. decembra 2021, se komisija zavzema za obsežno nadgradnjo kanonskega prava v kazenskih zadevah pri obravnavi kaznivih dejanj, ki jih preučuje Komisija. Nazadnje gre za izdajo natančnih navodil spovednikom glede spovedne molčečnosti, ki ne morejo dovoliti odstopanja od obveznosti, ki jih predvideva kazenski zakonik in je po mnenju komisije v skladu z obveznostjo naravne božanske pravice do varstva življenje in dostojanstvo osebe, prijaviti pristojnim organom primere spolnega nasilja nad mladoletno ali ranljivo osebo. Ne gre za dvom o tajnosti spovedi kot take, ampak želi na področju spolnega nasilja nad mladoletnimi osebami spomniti na črko in duha civilnega zakonika, ki je zavezujoč za vse na ozemlju države.

English

Shock in the French Church

I traveled by train, which did not stop between Strasbourg and Paris but was in a hurry for about 2 hours at just over 300 km/h (which equals 186,4 mph). It was beautiful to gaze at the sunlit earth in silence, and even more astounding was the thought of being in France again, which has become so dear to my heart. A few hours later, I arrived at the center of Paris, where during a meeting break, I overheard that the French bishops would issue a report in a few days on some research that would undoubtedly cause much pain. I returned home on October 3. Two days later, a press conference followed with the shocking news of sexual abuse in the Church in France. The Church published a general report on the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE). It was drawn up at the bishops’ request and religiously by Jean-Marc Sauvé, the former head of the French Council of State. The Commission consisted of 21 members, (top) experts from various fields of social sciences, which were considered necessary for such an undertaking: law, medicine (especially psychiatry), history, sociology, psychology, ethics, social politics, health, and theology. The Commission examined the extensively collected material in 4 working groups, namely: a) the group for theological and ecclesiastical issues and the aspect of the Church leadership; b) a group to study the relationship between canon and state law, with the task of considering possible reforms of the canon law; c) a group for victims, which at the same time dealt with the issue of liability and reparation under the restorative justice principle. This group worked in close contact with a mirror group made up of victims. All members of the latter agreed to share their experience with the Commission; d) an evaluation group that analyzed how the Church dealt (or hasn’t dealt) with cases known to it and the measures that the Church in France has introduced since 2000. The French Church always knew and even talked about the abuses; it just never indeed faced them. Much like the American Church before and after the McCarrick phenomenon. The CIASE report is divided into 3 content sections. I downloaded a summary of the Report without having any genuine desire to read it at first.

Ten days later, I had to travel to Paris again. Once again, I was sitting by the window of a rushing train and observing that same French countryside. I have read the report by then. Not much has changed on the outside, but I have experienced a lot of shock on the inside. Not a month ago, I was completely taken over by this country I increasingly consider a spiritual anchorage. How should I feel about it now, and what should I do with these shocking facts? What sort of things would have come out if we had made something similar in other local Churches?

Who exactly was hoping for such results? It turned out that 95% of the victims of the attacks did not talk about them at all. Also, the fact came to light that this plague was deep, systemic, and simply – evil. The shock is more tremendous because it concerns our own family circle, the Church, and this family – the Church – has done (almost) nothing to prevent it. It is downright fascinating with what subtlety and respect the topic was handled and ultimately introduced by its president. He named the events and conclusions without embellishment. The proposals for changes in the structure of the Church are very concrete and (at least for the internal Church circle and its way of being) unconventional, and the method of communication is dignified and straightforward. All this out of his awareness that it won’t do much good if he just attacks the Church and starts flogging it from left and right. Ultimately, it is about his own country and fellow citizens, so it is also about his (deeply wounded) family. Therefore, the feeling was clear: standing on a field in the aftermath of a massacre, clinging to the hope that something new could grow out of it. The aftermath is dramatic, so I took the time to look at it because I simply couldn’t do otherwise. In addition, I decided to wait until the first significant reaction from the French bishops, who, of course, focused on this overbearing topic during an extraordinary work meeting from 2 to November 8 in Lourdes. Such results obviously require more than just …

Msgr. Éric de Moulins Beaufort, President of the Conference of French Bishops, said the following dramatic words during the closing speech of the meeting of bishops on November 8, 2021: “We are therefore obliged to acknowledge that our Church is a place of grave crimes, horrific attacks on the lives and integrity of children and adults. This, however, should not be the case. This cannot be the Church of Jesus; the Church founded in the sacrifice of Lord Jesus himself; the Church that grew out of Israel and was made open to all nations by the apostles … It is necessary to recognize and acknowledge this: we have allowed the development of a Church system that does not bring life and does not open itself to spiritual freedom, but destroys, oppresses and tramples mankind and its most basic rights.” And a little later: “We did not become priests to engage in murderous acts. We are not Christians so that we can feed an organism that is dangerous to others.” His proposal regarding the role of Christians in the Church: “We must bring to all people, including criminals, the hope that it is never too late to repent, convert, and change the course of life; we must bring them the inner strength of Christ and his Spirit … God’s forgiveness cannot be used as an excuse for anyone who has committed a crime in order for that person to escape human for the contrary, forgiveness should reinforce the culprit’s readiness to take responsibility for his actions and bear the consequences.”

As a conclusion, he said: “We are moving towards the impoverishment of our Church. We both desire and expect this in different senses. The long-lasting presence of our Church in our country gives us strength, for it has been in many places, in many souls and in many moments, a source of good and beautiful; we willingly accept and take on the weight of this past. Above all, we want to be able to bring the good news of salvation and to be able to rejoice every time a person accepts it in his freedom.”

While reading the summary of the Report, I took notes. I wanted to understand well and remember well. They are beneficial in my estimation because they summarize the essential elements, as they explain the drama of the moment, the shock of so many people, and such heavy words of the president of the Bishops’ Conference.

I. Illuminate the situation. Roughly speaking, we can identify 3 periods of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: a) the time between 1950 and 1970, which is the peak of the phenomenon, b) the time between 1970 and 1990 when the incidence rate has slowed down, and c) the period from 1990 onwards, when, according to the available sources, we can clearly see another increase in the number of abuses, without being able to draw definitive conclusions about the exact number. To a large extent, victims of sexual violence in the Church are pre-pubescent boys from all social backgrounds. The research also addressed adult victims and devoted slightly more time to investigating abused nuns and seminarians. In adult victims, the logic of authority disguised as power and dominance, and vulnerability are repeated. The shapes drawn when listening to abusers about their own actions are often minimization, denial, and rarely the full recognition of crimes. The Commission estimated that the number of minors sexually abused in the French Catholic Church by priests, deacons, or religious between 1950 and 2020 was 216,000. If we extend sexual abuse from consecrated persons to all sexual abuse in the Church, we estimate 330,000 persons. It follows that more than a third of all sexual abuse was carried out by the laity. Due to a lack of methodological certainty, the Commission abandoned the estimate of the number of adults victims of sexual abuse.

First realization. What is known from many previous studies and testimonies and follows from the Commission’s research is that sexual abuse took place on a massive scale during the period considered. Of the currently living French men and women, an estimated 5,500,000 have experienced sexual abuse during their youth, accounting for 14.5% of all women and 6.4% of all men. Sexual abuse by consecrated persons represents 4% of this figure, and if we also take into account the laity in the Church, this number goes up to 6%.

Second realization. Although the vast majority of sexual abuse of minors took place within a family circle or a circle of friends (3.7% of adults in France have experienced abuse by family members, 2% by a family friend, and 1.8% by a friend), this number is much higher within the Church than in other environments of socialization. 1.16% of adults in France have experienced abuse in the Church, 0.82% of them by an ordained person. For comparison, this number is significantly lower in other spheres of socialization: 0.36% in summer camps, 0.34% in schools, 0.28% in sports clubs, and 0.17% in cultural activities. In other words, apart from family and friends, the Church is the environment where the proportion of sexual abuse is highest.

A sensitive issue is the number of priests and religious who carried out abuse in the period under consideration. According to archival data, the number ranges between 2,900 and 3,200 and represents between 2.5% and 2.8% of the total 115,000. Compared to other studies abroad, this number is much lower (ranging between 4.4% and 7.5%), but it is slightly higher than Dutch studies. It follows, therefore, that the number of victims per individual person is high, which is not impossible according to the scientific literature. A particular sexual predator can have many victims, especially when it comes to the target group of boys; in the Catholic Church, the vast majority of sexual abuse fits this category. So if we summarize the state of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France, it follows that it is a massive-scale phenomenon, all the way to the present day. A phenomenon based on diverse and clearly identified mechanisms characterized by a systemic character.

II. Uncover the dark part of the story. The Catholic Church, as an institution, has not protected victims of sexual abuse. It applies canon law that has failed and does not recognize or sufficiently consider the legal obligations. The period between 1950 and 1970 is characterized by a stance of covering up scandals and protecting the abusers while at the same time aiming to silence the victims’ voices, along with an effort not to make their testimonies public. Between 1970 and 1990, the issue of sexual abuse took a back seat, and the crisis of the clergy came to the fore, further monopolizing the internal structures dealing with “problematic” clerics. Since 1990, the Church’s attitude has gradually changed: it becomes aware of the existence of victims of sexual abuse, but at the same time, it does not really acknowledge them. This happens after 2010, when judicial appeals and canonical sanctions begin, effectively only ending the internal treatment of the abusers. In short, the Commission concludes and estimates from the considered material and Church practice that the actions of the Church can be described with the words concealment and relativization, sometimes denial. Actual acknowledgment of the phenomenon is only very recent, starting in 2015, and is still not at the same level in different dioceses and congregations. Consequently, the phenomenon has been defined as systemic. Not because the crimes would be organized or permitted by the institution (which did indeed happen in a few communities or institutions), but because the ecclesiastical institution clearly did not know how to name or even see these crimes, let alone deal with them decisively and fairly.

A certain proportion of the inadequacy of the Church’s treatment of sexual abuse lies in gaps within canon law, which was primarily intended to protect the sacraments – the victim remains absent mainly – and is significantly unadjusted in its criminal part when it comes to persecuting sexual violence. Secondly, and even more fundamentally, the Commission has examined the deviations and perversions encouraged by certain doctrines and teachings, which are being chastised by Pope Francis: clericalism in the form of excessive sacralization of the priest; overestimation of celibacy and charisma of the priest; renunciation of obedience as it approaches the obliteration of conscience; abuse of God’s word.

III. Chase away the darkness. The Church must recognize the facts and commit itself to correct injustices. It must also accept responsibility, both individually and systemically. Remediation procedures must become an integral part of criminal proceedings. The Church must establish a process to identify sexual abuse and make reparations for the damage caused. The church leadership must organize itself differently to become more pluralistic and thus regulate the danger of power abuse. In this sense, formation is one of the critical areas. Before we scream, This must not happen again!, we must recognize what This really is. We must define it, identify those responsible and correct the consequences as much as possible. It is not enough for the Church to become aware – it is much too late for this – of the situation. That is why the Commission insists that the Church must take the step of truth and redress injustice, beginning with the admission of responsibility. The Church has avoided this so far. In the eyes of the Commission, it would be wrong for the Catholic Church to believe that it is immune from any responsibility other than that which it chose to accept because there has been no judicial conviction to date. Except concerning the individual criminal responsibility of the abusers or because there have been no formal reports to the judiciary system. In addition to the fact that the involvement of diocesan civil liability in the rule of law is far from excluded, it is actually very possible – or even likely – for the legislator to choose to identify the consequences of the tragedy of sexual violence committed throughout society to establish compensation mechanisms that would impose sanctions on institutions and communities where the damage occurred. This is not just about the sins that need to be confessed but about mistakes that need to be corrected. Without euphemisms, without We didn’t know about it, and without excuses from the social or institutional context. This precondition of humiliation without pretense is essential for the credibility of future victim redress mechanisms, as proposed by the Commission.

The Commission proposes two main response paths: the so-called restorative justice and the establishment of truth-finding mechanisms regardless of how far back the date of the acts. Restorative justice seeks to correct the consequences of the victim’s level of being, including its level of having. As far as governance is concerned, the Commission, without drawing up ready-made answers to these questions, as these answers must come from the Church itself, invites the latter to examine in depth the apparent tensions between its hierarchical constitution and the desire for synodality on the one hand and the consequences of the accumulation of governing and managing power in the hands of the bishop on the other. As regards the punishment – in the light of the severe findings in the second part of the report and taking into account the reform of the Canon Law Penal Code, which will enter into force on December 8, 2021, the Commission is advocating an extensive upgrade of the Canon Law in terms of criminal matters and the treatment of criminal issues examined by the Commission. Lastly, it is a matter of issuing detailed instructions to confessors regarding the seal of the confessional, as they cannot allow any deviations from their obligation, which is stipulated by the Penal Code and is, in the Commission’s view, also in line with the natural divine right to protect the life and dignity of a person, to report incidents of sexual abuse of a minor or a vulnerable person to competent authorities. This is not to question the intimate nature of confessions as such, but to remind us, as pertains to sexual violence against minors, of the letter and spirit of the Civil Code, which is binding on all within the territory of a state.

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