French Catholic priests have sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years, according to an independent commission of inquiry.
The panel’s report, released on Tuesday, said the Catholic Church covered up a “massive incident” with a “veil of silence” of decades.
“By the early 2000s, the Catholic Church showed a deep and even brutal indifference to the victims,” the report said.
The commission’s report, released after a two-and-a-half-year investigation, said Catholic priests in France have sexually abused some 216,000 minors since 1950.
Jean-Marc Sauve, the head of the commission that compiled the report, told a Paris news conference that most of the victims were boys between the ages of 10 and 13.
The number of child abuse victims rose to 330,000, including claims against church members such as Catholic school teachers, the report said.
Catholic bishops in France set up the commission in 2018 to highlight abuses such as the decline of churches and restore faith in the church.
The investigation was triggered by a growing number of claims and accusations of abuse of church officials around the world.
Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the Episcopal Conference of France, who requested the report, expressed “shame and horror” at the findings during the news conference.
“I wish to apologize to each of you today,” he said.
Along with 45 recommendations to stop child abuse by clergy, Sauve on Tuesday urged the church to pay compensation to the victims. The church announced a plan last spring to provide “financial contributions” to victims.
“We expect a clear and concrete response from the church,” the six victims’ associations said.
Abuse victim Francois Devaux, founder of the victims’ union La Parole Libre, told church representatives at the report’s unveiling that “you are a disgrace to our humanity.”
Earlier this year, Pope Francis issued the most comprehensive amendment to Catholic Church law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults.
Some of the information in this report was provided by the agencies France-Presse, the Associated Press and Reuters.