French bishops have announced setting up an “independent” commission to “shed light on the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church since 1950”.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) said the panel would seek “to understand the reasons which led to the way these affairs were handled” and make recommendations.
This commission also aims to evaluate the measures taken by the Conference of Bishops of France since the 2000s, and it would draw up a report within two years.
In a devastating US report last August, more than 300 “predator” priests were accused of abusing over 1,000 minors over seven decades in the state of Pensylvania. Most of the abuse survivors were boys, but girls were abused too, the report said.
The abuse ranged from groping and masturbation to anal, oral and vaginal rape.
According to the report, Catholic bishops covered up child sexual abuse by priests and reassigned them repeatedly to different parishes.
“They allowed priests to remain active for as long as 40 years,” Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General said. “Children were taught that this abuse was not only normal but it was holy.”
French Catholic clerics have also been caught in abuse scandals, according to Mediapart, a French online investigative journal.
The most senior French Catholic cleric to be caught up in the abuse scandal is Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is to go on trial in January for allegedly covering up for a priest accused of abusing boy scouts in the Lyon area in the 1980s.
The scandals have put pressure on the bishops who indicated financial compensation could be offered to victims.
The CEF statement said the commission’s work would include “collecting the stories of victims in order to better understand the reasons that led to these acts” and help prevention efforts.