French Roman Catholic Church wants to regain faith of population


Western Europe


Bishops take part in a mass during the extraordinary plenary assembly of the Bishops of France in the Fourviere Basilica in Lyon. Photo AFP, Jeff Pachoud

Several cases of sexual abuse have undermined the trust in the Roman Catholic Church in France. Therefore, the French Conference of Bishops has decided to take measures to regain the population's confidence.

Recently, the Emeritus Archbishop of Strasbourg confessed to inappropriate sexual behaviour towards a young adult woman. Before that, another Bishop admitted that he had sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl. Also, 11 French bishops have been implicated in inappropriate sexual behaviour. These revelations tarnish the image of the Church, RCF writes. It now wants to take measures to restore its reputation.

Marie-Jo Thiel, theologian, doctor and professor of ethics, argues for a strategy to denounce all the culprits. Furthermore, she pleads for better training for new bishops. Now, they only have to follow a 48-hour training course in Rome that should equip them for their entire episcopate.


A newly established committee of experts will guide any archbishop or bishop who is confronted with an abuse case in which another bishop is the perpetrator. That is reported by Le Pelerin.

Furthermore, the Conference of Bishops stressed the need for transparency. Bishop Yves Baumgarten says that it is essential to keep the Roman Catholic community updated about sanctions of perpetrators when they are final, for example.

Warning signs

Furthermore, lay people are to be involved in improving conditions in the Church. "We must give the keys to the faithful themselves", a Church representative said to RCF. "The faithful must and can be empowered, for example, by learning to detect warning signs. The role of priests remains crucial in maintaining trust and making this dialogue transparent. Talking about it daily, in the parishes, is a necessity."

The Agir Pour Notre Eglise collective works to make the Church a safe house, RCF writes. Alix Huon, one of the members of the network of laypeople, says that all Catholics should receive the report on the cases of abuse.

The Mission Congress, a movement of young lay people, advocates freedom of tone. Its co-organiser Arnaud Bouthéon, says to RCF that the objective of the Mission Congress is to help young people deal with the scandals in the Church without losing their faith. He sees crises as opportunities to question ourselves and establish a change in the Church. "The institution must understand that it must at all costs rely on the faithful, that change can come from below. The laity is the essential "counter-power" to question the institution's functioning."


Some see the raised voices of lay people as a turn in Catholic history. That so many Catholics intend to take action is a sign of a significant change in their relationship with the institution, La Croix reports. More and more Catholics want to be part of the debate about the scandals, Denis Pelletier notices. He is a historian and director of studies at the Practical School of Advanced Studies. "This can almost be considered a social movement, which is rather rare in the Church", he says to La Croix.

Remarkable is that most laity does not turn against the Church but is willing to work with the Church to establish a change. Some clerics also plead for more cooperation between clergy and laity, La Croix writes. Recently, some of them wrote a letter in which they called bishops to "stop ignoring the faithful, their priests and the victims."


Pope Francis also contributed to the debate about sexual abuse in the French Church by writing a letter to the French Bishop's Conference. That is reported by Famille Chretienne. He assures the French clergy that he remains close to them in this period of turmoil. "While the Church of France is once again upset by the tragedy of abuses on the part of some of its pastors, [Pope Francis] invites you, with your gaze fixed on the cross of Christ, not to be discouraged, but to persevere in the assurance that the Holy Spirit accompanies you in your efforts", Cardinal Parolin wrote on behalf of the Pope. Furthermore, the Pope encouraged French clergy to listen to the stories of abuse victims and show them compassion.



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