WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Oct. 5 report on sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church “underscores the need for us to repent and grow in our commitment to serve the people of God,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.
“In his pastoral concern for the universal church, Pope Francis “has called us all to greater accountability and transparency in addressing the sins of abuse and the mishandling of abuse claims at every level,” said Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri.
The independent report estimated that 330,000 children in the French Catholic Church have been abused since the 1950s. Most of the victims were pre-adolescent boys of all social backgrounds, and more than a third of the assaults were committed by laypeople.
The report did not attempt to quantify the number of adults abused, but said some of those sexually assaulted were nuns or seminarians.
In the report, the 21-member Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church described itself as “witnesses of witnesses.”
“I am deeply saddened by the news reports coming out of France of sexual abuse by clergy there, and I echo our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who has expressed his sorrow at the news,” Johnston said Oct. 5.
“In renewed solidarity with victim-survivors who have courageously come forward, we join the Church of France in praying for forgiveness, healing and protection,” he said.
Johnston noted the U.S. Catholic Church has established “a comprehensive set of child protection standards that the dioceses and eparchies have committed to following,” but, he added, “the painful experience of survivors always calls us to continual vigilance and improvement.”
“This report opens painful wounds for those who have suffered abuse by a priest, bishop, or someone in the church, and to those who have experienced this, I urge you to report this to law enforcement and to church authorities,” he said.
The bishop directed people to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website for information on how and where to report abuse: www.usccb.org/committees/protection-children-young-people/how-report-abuse.
“Let us all continue to pray for healing and reconciliation,” Johnston said.