PARIS – France’s Catholic Church said on Monday it would sell real estate and, if needed, take out loans to set up a fund to compensate thousands of people sexually abused by clergy.
A major investigation found in October that French clerics sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years.
Senior clergy meeting in the holy site of Lourdes had recognised their Church’s “institutional responsibility” and decided “to go on a path of recognition and reparation,” France’s top bishop, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, said.
Bishops would set up a fund “financed to whatever extent necessary through the divestment of real estate and other assets”, de Moulins-Beaufort, archbishop of Reims and the head of the French Bishops’ conference, told journalists.
“If needed, we are also prepared to take on loans in order to fulfil our obligations,” he added at the end of the meeting. He gave no details on the size of the fund or what property might be sold.
The October report found that the French church had shown “deep, total and even cruel indifference for years,” protecting itself rather than the victims of what was systemic abuse.
At the time, Pope Francis called the findings – the latest revelations to rock the Roman Catholic Church after a series of sexual abuse scandals around the world – “a moment of shame”.
Several clergy were seen falling to their knees in acts of penance during the meetings over the weekend in Lourdes.
De Moulins-Beaufort said the bishops had also decided to ask the Pope to send them special envoys to supervise each bishop’s and diocese’s handling of individual abuse cases.