The clergy and lay members within the French Catholic Church sexually abused more than 330,000 children over the past 70 years, a report has found.
According to the 2,500-page report released on Oct. 5, French Catholic priests, deacons, and other clergy had sexually abused an estimated 216,000 children since 1950.
The report further found that lay members of the church, such as teachers and catechism supervisors, and nonreligious people involved in the church also sexually abused children, leading the figure to rise to at least 330,000.
About 80% of the sexual abuse victims were boys, who came from different social backgrounds and were targeted before they reached adolescence, according to the report.
The report, which took two and half years of research and interviews, also uncovered a “minimum estimate” of between 2,900 and 3,200 pedophiles working within the church since 1950.
The report also said that the crimes were covered up in a “systemic way.”
“These numbers are more than worrying, they are overwhelming and can in no way go unanswered,” Jean-Marc Sauve, the president of the commission that led the independent investigation, said at a press conference.
According to Sauve, 22 alleged crimes have been forwarded to prosecutors. Meanwhile, over 40 cases that were too old to be prosecuted but involve alleged perpetrators who are still alive have been forwarded to church officials.
“The Church can and should do whatever is necessary to restore what has been damaged, and to rebuild what has been broken,” Sauve further said.
Sauve urged the Church to pay reparations to the victims, including the cases that were beyond the statue of limitations for prosecution.
Sauve also called for urgent reform of the Catholic Church, including its internal legal system, its governance, and its training.
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