The Archbishop of Reims and president of the French Episcopal Conference, Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, declared on Wednesday that the Church should not inform civil authorities of confessed sexual crimes during the sacrament of penance.
“The secret of confession is imposed on us and in this it is stronger than the laws of the Republic”, said the clergyman to Franceinfo a day after the publication of a report of sexual abuse within the French Catholic Church.
At the same time, he noted that, at least in cases of confessions of abused minors, priests have to “find a way to allow this child to speak differently.” According to Moulins-Beaufort, “many children only speak during confession because they know it is secret” and would not do so if they knew their parents might find out what happened. “We have to train ourselves to learn from this statement, to make another possible,” he said.
“There is nothing stronger than the laws of the Republic”
The archbishop’s words were criticized by the French authorities. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal indicated that he drew the attention of President Macron and the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, to the prelate’s statements.
“The reaction to these words is very clear, in our country there is nothing stronger than the laws of the Republic, it can be summarized in one sentence, and it is very clear. […] The President of the Republic asked the Minister of the Interior to receive the president of the French Episcopal Conference to make things clear “, he pointed Attal, según AFP.
According to agency sources, the meeting between Moulins-Beaufort and Castaner will take place early next week.
330,000 victims of sexual abuse in 70 years
According to the report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase), since the 1950s, nearly 3,000 pedophiles have acted in the French Church, two-thirds of them priests. 330,000 children and adolescents were victims of sexual abuse by members of the organization.
Near to 80% of abused minors are male. In addition, “about 60% of the men and women who suffered sexual abuse have great problems in their love or sexual life.”
The president of Ciase, Jean-Marc Sauvé, pointed out that 22 cases were referred to the authorities for possible criminal proceedings. While more than 40 cases are too old to be prosecuted by the courts, they involve suspects who are still alive and have been referred to church authorities.
The next day after the publication, Pope Francis expressed his “shame” for himself and for the Catholic Church at the magnitude of the crimes.
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