Sexual abuse in the Church: bishops make progress on measures in favor of victims



Five months after the resolutions adopted during the Plenary Assembly of November 2021, the bishops of France, meeting again in Lourdes, made an initial assessment, Wednesday, April 6, with those responsible for the structures put in place. The leaders of these were invited to speak to the episcopate – and to people who were victims of sexual abuse present by videoconference.

→ ANALYSIS. Sexual abuse in the Church, restorative justice for victims on a case-by-case basis

Marie Derain de Vaucresson, President of the Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation (Inirr) spoke about the functioning of this independent body. Three axes preside over the action of the Inirr; listening to victims; the recognition of the situation of victim – which can be formalized by an official letter, mediation, a meeting with an ecclesial authority –; and thirdly, a reparation decision, which is not necessarily pecuniary. Supported by a college of experts and “situation referents”, professionals work with victims to build a personalized path of recognition and reparation.

First lessons

Since its creation, 526 people have contacted the Inirr. To date, 68% of requests have been made by men, with the proportion of women being higher than in the survey conducted by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase).

Most of the people are between 56 and 70 years old, but Marie Derain de Vaucresson also notes reports of people under thirty. More than two thirds of the victims (70%) were between the ages of 11 and 15 at the time of the crime, and 20% were between the ages of 6 and 10. The violence sometimes extended over a period of three to twenty years.

People’s expectations appear to be very diverse: 23% gave their testimony for the sole purpose of being counted as victims, 46% wanted clear recognition by the Church of the ordeal endured; 57% want a repair, and only half believe that it should go through a financial aspect.

Marie Derain de Vaucresson clarified that benchmarks are still being studied to define a scale, in particular with the Recognition and Reparation Commission (CRR), the other reparation body launched by the Conference of Religious and Religious of France (Corref) .

Funding

The financial aspect directly concerns the Relief Fund and the fight against abuse of minors (Selam) chaired by Gilles Vermot-Desroches. He recalled that 20 million euros have already been collected to allow both a payment to the victims, but also a participation in the financing of prevention and support for the memory process. Five million euros have already been allocated for repair and one million euros for prevention.

→ READ. Sexual abuse in the Church, major victims forgotten

Composed of sixteen members, this structure “has the mission of making possible the concretization of the decisions taken by the bishops”explained Gilles Vermot-Desroches who thanked the bishops for the commitment of their dioceses but also their personal participation in the constitution of the endowment fund.

Independent groups

For his part, Hervé Balladur, appointed to coordinate the mission of the nine working groups launched by the bishops during the Plenary Assembly in November, gave an update on their mission. “ We owe it to the victims, we owe it to ourselves”he said, aware of the very high expectations of the victims and the faithful.

“I am the guarantor of the freedom of reflection of the groups who will return the results of their work in the spring of 2023”, continued Hervé Balladur. These working groups mobilize around a hundred people, of whom 45% are women, two-thirds are lay people and 60% are from provincial dioceses. Each group has at least one victim and one bishop, full members.

→ PORTRAIT. Hervé Balladur, a manager to alleviate the suffering of victims of sexual abuse in the Church

Five months after the decisions of the bishops, the presidents of the three independent bodies, after a necessary time of structuring which must still be completed by some hirings, wished to advance their respective missions as quickly as possible.

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