Pope Francis has said he is ashamed at scale of French Catholic Church child abuse, even as he expressed sadness over the suffering of 330,000 victims after a report found nuns used crucifixes to rape girls.
The 2,500-page landmark report was released on Tuesday, October 5, after more than two years of investigations by an independent commission.
The commission found that an estimated 330,000 children were victims of sex abuse within France’s Catholic Church between 1950 to 2020, with an estimated 216,000 minors abused by priests and other clerics.
Reacting to the damning report, the pontiff expressed his ‘sadness’ for the victims as it emerged that nuns used crucifixes to rape girls during decades of abuse which was covered up by a ‘veil of silence’.
“There is, unfortunately, a considerable number I wish to express to the victims my sadness and pain for the trauma they have suffered,’ Francis said during his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday.
“And also my shame, our shame, my shame, for the inability of the Church for too long to put them at the centre of its concerns.
“I pray and we all pray together – to you Lord the glory, to us the shame. This is the time for shame.’
He called on all bishops and religious superiors to take all actions necessary ‘so similar dramas are not repeated.’
The findings of the inquiry have prompted outrage as the Catholic Church in France and around the world face a growing number of abuse claims and prosecutions.
Dealing with the avalanche of revelations about sexual abuse by clergy was one of the biggest challenges that Francis faced when he was elected pope in 2013.
He declared an end to impunity and changed Vatican law to make reporting abuse mandatory, but victims have warned it is not enough.
Francis expressed his sorrow for the victims in a statement Tuesday issued through his spokesman, but his comments on Wednesday went further.
He urged the clergy to keep working to ensure such situations ‘are not repeated’, offering his support to French priests to face up to ‘this trial that is hard but healthy’. He also invited French Catholics to ‘assume their responsibilities to ensure that the Church is a safe home for all’.
The report found that the ‘vast majority’ of victims were pre-adolescent boys from a variety of social backgrounds. Their abusers were mainly priests, bishops, deacons and monks.