French Catholic Church sells property to compensate abuse victims


Western Europe


The archbishop of Reims, Éric Moulins-Beaufort, kneels as a sign of penance on the days of the bishops' meeting in Lourdes. Photo AFP, Valentine Chapuis

The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in France have decided to sell off church property or take loans so that victims of abuse by priests can receive compensation.

In a statement given on Monday, President of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort conceded the Catholic Church bore "Institutional responsibility for the decades of abuse," and decided to go "on a path of recognition and reparation", Politico writes.

Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort incited controversy in France in early October after commenting the secrecy of confession was "above the laws of the Republic."

Shortly after, he was summoned, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, for a meeting with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to discuss the report's findings. Darmanin later said: "In the secular Republic, no law is superior to the laws of the Republic … we absolutely must protect our children."

Church buildings

Although the compensation will be paid from, among other things, the sale of church movable and immovable property, this does not mean that churches will now be offered for sale on a large scale. Many French church buildings –all those dating before 1924– belong to the French state, Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad reports. So, it will be buildings that are not used as churches.

It is still unclear what amounts the church plans to pay out to the thousands of people who were minors at the time. The compensation fund was announced earlier and is due to start paying out next year.

The bishops had recently acknowledged that the church was responsible for years of systematic child abuse by clergy in the country. The church turned a blind eye to the abuse and kept quiet about it.

A major investigation into the abuses between 1950 and 2020 shows that clergy widely abused young people. It was a "huge phenomenon", it concluded. At least 216,000 victims were counted, primarily young boys. If you include abuse by teachers in Catholic schools, for example, the figure is 330,000 minors.



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