The head of an independent commission investigating a scandal of the French Catholic Church reported that almost 3,000 pedophiles have been working inside the French Catholic Church since 1950.
Jean-Marc Sauve said that the commission’s research uncovered between 2,900 and 3,200 pedophile priests or other members of the church adding that it was “a minimum estimate”.
The commission’s report is due to be released on Tuesday after two and a half years of research based on church, court, and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses.
Sauve, a senior French civil servant, said the report which runs to 2,500 pages had attempted to quantify both the number of offenders and the number of victims.
He said that the report also looked into “the mechanisms, notably institutional and cultural ones” within the Church which allowed pedophiles to remain in the church adding that the report would offer 45 proposals.
The independent commission was set up in 2018 by the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) in response to a number of scandals that shook the Church in France and worldwide.
Its formation also came after Pope Francis passed a landmark measure obliging those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors.
The commission which is made up of 22 legal professionals, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians was established with the brief to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by clerics dating back to the 1950s.
When it began its work it called for witness statements and set up a telephone hotline, then reported receiving thousands of messages in the months that followed.
The report will be delivered to the CEF and released at a press conference on Tuesday to which representatives of victims’ associations are invited.
A member of the Commission said, “It will be an explosion, It will have the effect of a bomb”, added Olivier Savignac, of the victim’s association Parler et Revivre.
Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the president of the CEF, said he feared that the report would unveil “significant and frightening figures”, during a meeting with parishioners from his diocese.
A message from Church authorities to priests and parishes for weekend masses warned that the report’s publication would be “a harsh and serious moment”, which calls for “an attitude of truth and compassion”.
Sauve had said in November that the handling of suspected pedophile cases “in the past has often been faulty”.
He said it was of immense importance that there could have been some institutions and some communities even in small numbers where systemic abuses could have been committed.