Sauvé Commission: role, members, functioning… What you need to know about Ciase

What is the role of Ciase?

Requested by the Conference of Bishops of France and the Conference of Religious of France, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase) is responsible for shedding light on the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people committed in the ranks of the Church in France since 1950, and to study the manner in which these matters were handled.

→ FILE. The Church in the face of pedophilia and sexual abuse

It was entrusted on November 18, 2019 to the former vice-president of the Council of State Jean-Marc Sauvé. The mission letter which was sent to him assigned the commission a very wide field of investigation while leaving it the greatest freedom to set its working methods.

Who are its members ?

Independence and pluralism, these two dominants presided over the composition of this commission of 22 members, 12 men and 10 women. Jean-Marc Sauvé composed it alone, not voluntarily appealing to any priest or religious, nor to members of associations of victims or other people involved in the subject.

The personalities chosen were chosen because they were authoritative in their respective disciplines and came from very diverse backgrounds. Namely legal professionals, such as the former president of the bar Jean-Marie Burguburu, the young lawyer Stéphane de Navacelle, the former president of the Bobigny children’s court Jean-Pierre Rosenczveig, or the professor of canon law and outgoing vice-rector from the University of Friborg Astrid Kaptijn; but also health professionals (doctors, psychologist or psychoanalyst), the social sector and education such as the president of the Commission for the fight against mistreatment of the High Council for the family, childhood and age Alice Casagrande, as well as academics, such as the lawyer Antoine Garapon and the sociologist of religions and secularism Philippe Portier. Two theologians also took part in the work of Ciase, a Protestant, Marion Muller-Colard, doctor of the Protestant faculty of the University of Strasbourg and member of the National Consultative Ethics Committee, and a Catholic, Joël Molinario, director of the Higher Institute of Catechetical Pastoral of the Catholic Institute of Paris.

This diversity was also manifested in the religious and philosophical opinions of the members of Ciase. Some were agnostics or atheists, others believers of various faiths, of Christian origin or not. Finally, all generations were represented, with an average age, within the commission, of 57 years. ” The victims who spoke are mostly in their thirties and forties: this age group had to be represented. Jean-Marc Sauvé insisted from the start.

As a guarantee of their independence, these 22 members worked for two and a half years on a voluntary basis. The Ciase budget, of around 3.5 million euros allocated by the agents – one third for Corref and the rest for CEF – being devoted mainly to its operation: premises, secretariat, digital tools, employees, etc. members of the commission has, in fact, been attached a support team, composed of a secretary general, who has spent her entire career within the ADP group, Sylvette Toche, a general rapporteur, senior civil servant, Olivier Gariazzo, an officer in charge of mission and rapporteurs – magistrates, administrators of the National Assembly or the Senate or members of inspection bodies.

La Ciase also heard about fifty experts, great witnesses and Church leaders to enlighten it on its methods and its subject of study.

How did it work?

A first group worked on the survey methodology. Very quickly, the Ciase felt it necessary to build its study from the words of the victims. She therefore launched a vast call for testimonies, backed by the telephone support platform for victims of the France Victims federation. It has thus identified 6,500 testimonies, concerning at least 3,000 different victims. Nearly 1,600 of them also agreed to fill out a very detailed questionnaire which was analyzed by an Inserm team. Then in small groups of two or three, the commission interviewed 250 victims for two hours per interview.

To raise awareness among victims, Ciase has had recourse to national and regional media, Catholic networks, as well as victims’ associations. It also organized a “tour de France”: public sessions in the regions, in “neutral places” (higher education establishments, lawyers’ house, etc.), were organized (Lille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Nantes, Pointe- in-Pitre, Fort-de-France, Toulouse, Orléans, Rennes, Rouen, Lyon, Dijon, Bastia). These trips also made it possible to hold relocated hearings for victims who wanted to be heard and could not travel to Paris.

The commission also sent the bishops and major superiors a detailed questionnaire to make an inventory of the archives of dioceses and religious institutes. She asked them, by decade, the number of priests or religious involved, the number of victims, the measures taken by the Catholic Church. Beyond that, she carried out a more in-depth analysis of the archives of a third of the dioceses – rural and urban – and of about twenty congregations – apostolic and contemplative where important things had happened in order to consult the files.

This work was supplemented by an analysis of the civil archives of ministries, jurisdictions or even the press. The crossing of all these data should make it possible to establish an order of magnitude at the national level of the abuses over the period. With this question: has there been more sexual abuse in the Church than in French society? In an attempt to answer this question, a major survey of the general population was also launched in conjunction with Inserm, conducted among 30,000 people.

The last two areas of work concern case studies conducted by the Maison des sciences de l’Homme and an in-depth analysis of the profiles and backgrounds of the perpetrators of abuse.

Throughout these two and a half years of investigation, Ciase has regularly reported on its work. With the publication of the results of her investigation, Tuesday, October 5, she must present recommendations to the Church.


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