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French Catholic Church Will Sell Assets to Compensate Abuse Victims

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PARIS — The Roman Catholic Church in France will promote a few of its belongings to compensate victims of sexual abuse, French bishops introduced on Monday, one month after the discharge of a sweeping report on sexual abuse by the clergy that has fueled rising requires reform.

“We will ensure that no one is left behind,” Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, the archbishop of Reims and the president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, instructed reporters after a gathering of bishops over the previous week in Lourdes, a preferred Catholic pilgrimage website in southwestern France.

The measure, certainly one of a number of authorized close to unanimously on Monday by the bishops, was greeted by victims teams as a major step within the French church’s reckoning of sexual abuse in its ranks, which accelerated after the discharge of the report final month.

But they cautioned that they’d hold a watchful eye on the implementation of the measures introduced Monday, which additionally included the creation of an impartial reparations physique to course of victims’ claims. The bishops additionally stated they deliberate to arrange working teams, presided over by laypeople, that may draw up concrete proposals by 2023 on points just like the coaching of clergymen.

Olivier Savignac, a member of De la parole aux actes!, an umbrella affiliation of sufferer teams established after the report was launched, stated {that a} tradition of opaqueness and secrecy had been “broken.”

“Now we want to see how things are going to be implemented,” Mr. Savignac stated, citing the staffing of the working teams and of the reparations physique, which can be led by Marie Derain de Vaucresson, a authorized professional who specializes within the rights of kids.

The devastating church-ordered report final month estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 kids or weak individuals had been abused over the previous 70 years by clergy members or individuals affiliated with the church — a projection primarily based on a normal inhabitants survey, a public name for victims’ testimony, archival evaluation and different sources.

For the primary time final week, France’s 120 bishops acknowledged that the church bore an “institutional responsibility” for “systemic” abuse.

“It’s the sign of a positive dynamic, which must still be confirmed,” Jérôme Chapuis, the editor in chief of La Croix, a revered Catholic newspaper in France, wrote in an editorial on Sunday. “Because this fragile process is only in its early stages.”

The announcement on compensation was broadly awaited by victims of clerical abuse, who had balked at earlier solutions by France’s Catholic management that the victims compensation fund ought to be financed primarily by parishioner donations.

“It’s what we were hoping for,” stated Mr. Savignac, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13. “Because it’s the institution that is taking responsibility and paying.”

The Church will promote belongings, together with actual property, and will even take out a mortgage if wanted, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort stated. Each sufferer can even be compensated individually — one other key demand from victims teams, who had rejected solutions of a flat payment and stated every case wanted to be evaluated individually. Some victims say they want to recoup years of medical payments and different bills linked to the trauma attributable to the abuse.

Parishioners can nonetheless donate cash immediately to the compensation fund, however normal parishioner donations, which account for a big portion of the Catholic Church’s funding in France, is not going to be used, the bishops stated on Monday.

Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort didn’t present any particulars about how a lot the church anticipated that the compensation fund would develop, however stated it might be endowed regularly as victims got here ahead. Nor did he present a list of what the church anticipated to promote. Some French dioceses, just like the one in Paris, have sizable actual property belongings, however others are struggling financially.

“Obviously we must gather sums that are far greater than what we had imagined, given the scope of the abuse,” he stated.

The bishops have additionally requested Pope Francis to ship a group of “trusted” advisers to assist consider the French church’s child-protection measures. The Vatican’s function within the dealing with of abuse scandals within the Catholic Church has been criticized by victims’ teams, who argue that it’s an impediment to reform on some points, like holding negligent bishops accountable, requiring that allegations be reported to civil authorities, and, in uncommon circumstances, utilizing confession to hold abuse secret.

The bishops voted on Monday to create a particular canonical court docket that may deal with abuse circumstances nationwide, to keep away from having clergymen accused of abuse judged by native church leaders who could also be inclined to defend them.

But different points associated to canon regulation are exterior of the French church’s purview and would require a coverage shift in Rome. French Catholic leaders are anticipated to meet with Pope Francis in December.

“We are not at the end of the path,” Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort stated in his closing speech on Monday. “But a path is possible, it has been laid out for us, and we must follow it step by step.”