'We want justice': Victims of sexual abuse by French Catholic Church seek financial compensation

'We want justice': Victims of sexual abuse by French Catholic Church seek financial compensation
Copyright euronews
By Johan Bodinier
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Victims of sexual assault at the hands of the French Catholic Church are demanding recognition and appropriate financial compensation.

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On 5 October 2021, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the French Catholic Church published its report. Its revelations were chilling.

From 1950 to 2020, no less than 330,000 minors were victims of sexual abuse by clerics or laypersons within the Church.

In response, two independent bodies were created to deal with reparations: The National Body for Recognition and Reparation, and the Commission for Recognition and Reparation. More than a year later, have the victims been able to find peace? Far from it, says Nancy Couturier. 

She was assaulted and raped as a child and was the first person to deal with the Commission for Recognition and Reparation. For her, victims urgently need financial compensation.

Seeking financial justice

"We are asking for justice. Financial justice. We don't have civil justice anymore. We want recognition of what we’ve gone through, [we demand] that victims are supported to the same extent as they suffered ... and are still suffering, mentally and morally," Nancy Couturier told Euronews.

Euronews
Nancy Couturier, victim of sexual abuse, speaks to EuronewsEuronews

After feeling humiliated by the Commission's proposal for compensation, Nancy decided to set up an association to help other victims assert their rights. She’s not the only one who is angry: some were only informed of the proposal by mail. 

"You read the letter: the victim is well known, the priests are well known, everything that happened to her is well known... And then you read €37,000. I thought: that’s not possible, €37,000.", Nancy said.

"To get the €60,000, you must have to be bedridden, I don't know... It's disgusting, it's not on!"

€60,000 is the maximum amount of compensation available. That’s not enough for Mr Sannier, the association's lawyer. He told Euronews that compensation should reflect the offences committed.

Euronews
A church building, Lyon, FranceEuronews

"It won't exceed the amount I got before the judicial court in Saint-Etienne for a priest who put his hand on a boy's buttocks," Jean Sannier explained. 

And that’s the problem, he explains, because the expenses for victim care are not taken into account by the commissions.

Euronews
Jean Sannier, LawyerEuronews

"When you've spent more than €60,000 on therapy and you're capped at €60,000, you won't get any compensation," he added.

For Mr Sannier, this is about safeguarding the Church's money. The president of the Commission for Recognition and Reparation, Antoine Garapon, believes that no amount of money can repair these shattered lives.

"We think it would be dishonest to hold out the prospect [...] of a full reparation that they will never get because you simply can’t make up for what’s happened to these people," he told Euronews.

Another cause for concern is the silence. To date, less than 1% of the 200,000 victims in France have begun a reparation process.

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