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France: Catholic Church to compensate abuse victims

The Catholic Church in France announced on Saturday that abuse victims will be financially compensated, following similar moves in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

The French Bishops’ Conference voted in favor of the move during their biannual conference in the southwestern town of Lourdes. They did not agree on the exact amount but said that the payment should be a lump sum.

According to the agreement, any person who was a minor at the time of the abuse and who is recognized by their bishop as a victim will be eligible to receive money.

The fund will be financed by the church, although the bishops said that those responsible for the abuse should also be held accountable financially.

The president of the French Bishops’ Conference, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, said that the payments will recognize victims’ suffering and “the silence, negligence, indifference, lack of reaction or bad decisions or dysfunction within the church.”

The Catholic Church in Germany has so far paid victims €5,000 ($5,500) but voted this year to raise the basic level of compensation.

Read more: French court allows release of Francois Ozon’s Church abuse film

The ‘colossal financial impact’ of abuse

The bishops also voted to allocate €5 million ($5.5 million) to an independent commission investigating church sex abuse in France and to support prevention efforts.

While the number of victims is not yet known, the independent commission examining abuse in the church said that 2,800 people have responded to provide testimony.

Moulins-Beaufort, who is also the archbishop of Reims, said he hoped that the fund would help bishops reconcile with victims.

The French Catholic Church was particularly slow in recognizing the church’s role and complicity during decades of sex abuse, arguing that bishops couldn’t be held responsible for the actions of their priests.

Francois Devaux, the president of an association of church sex-abuse victims, said that the compensation would help with the “colossal financial impact” that sex abuse has on children who struggle later as adults.

In 2016, an investigation by online publication “Mediapart” found 342 cases of sex abuse over the course of 50 years that had been allegedly covered up by French bishops.

Pope Francis convened the Vatican’s first-ever summit on the issue of sex abuse in February and has urged church leaders to take action to confront the scandal.

rs/tj (AP, dpa)

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  • Still from film By the Grace of God (Jean-Claude Moireau)

    8 films portraying Catholic Church sex abuse

    ‘By the Grace of God’ (2019)

    Francois Ozon’s Berlinale entry focuses on the true story of a group of sex abuse victims who’ve formed an association to break the silence, years after they were molested by a priest in Lyon. The father’s widespread abuse was known by his diocese’s cardinal and even the Vatican. The actual Cardinal Barbarin, who attempted to cover up the case, is now on trial and could end up in prison.

  • Film still Spotlight (picture-alliance/dpa/Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films/Paramount)

    8 films portraying Catholic Church sex abuse

    ‘Spotlight’ (2016)

    Based on a true story, this biographical drama directed by Tom McCarthy follows a team of reporters from “The Boston Globe” as they uncover systemic child sex abuse by Catholic priests in their city. “Spotlight” garnered six Oscar nominations and won for best picture and best screenplay. The actual investigation also earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.

  • Film still from The Club (Fabula)

    8 films portraying Catholic Church sex abuse

    ‘The Club’ (2015)

    Dark images, silhouetted actors shown out of focus: It’s the cinematography of a horror film. Chilean director Pablo Larrain tackled an explosive topic in “The Club,” in which four retired Catholic priests live in a secluded house and there “purge” horrible crimes, including child sex abuse. Larrain was inspired by true stories of high-level priests who live in hiding to avoid criminal charges.

  • Verfehlung by Gerd Schneider (Camino-Filmverleih)

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    ‘Verfehlung’ (2015)

    The German film “Verfehlung” (Misconduct) by Gerd Schneider depicts how the friendship of three priests is affected by a sex abuse scandal. One of them is accused of molesting teenage boys, and the two others react to their friend’s situation in different ways. The way they deal with the truth could impact not only their relationship, but also their career in the ranks of the Church.

  • Film still Philomena (2013) by Stephen Frears (Imago/Zuma Press)

    8 films portraying Catholic Church sex abuse

    ‘Philomena’ (2013)

    With “Philomena,” Stephen Frears deals with another aspect of the Church’s institutional abuse: women who were forcibly separated from their children born out of wedlock. The film is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, whose son was taken away by the nuns at the convent where she was forced to work and sold to wealthy Americans. Actress Judi Dench portrayed the older Philomena.

  • Film still La Mala Educacion (Imago/United Archives)

    8 films portraying Catholic Church sex abuse

    ‘Bad Education’ (2004)

    While Pedro Almodovar’s drama “Bad Education” is a stylized murder mystery playing on different levels of metafiction, it also tells the story of a young boy being molested by a Catholic priest in his boarding school. Ignacio, the abused child, is later a transgender woman who confronts the abusive father and blackmails him.

  • Film still The Magdalene Sisters (picture-alliance/United Archives/Impress)

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    ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ (2002)

    The Magdalene Asylums, also known as Magdalene laundries, were Catholic Church institutions that served as a reformatory for women labelled as “fallen.” Peter Mullan’s 2002 drama portrays one such home, telling the story of four young women who were sent there by their families, or caretakers, and who faced extreme cruelty and abuse by nuns. The last such institution closed in 1996.

  • Film still Primal Fear (Imago/United Archives)

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    ‘Primal Fear’ (1996)

    A 19-year-old altar boy (Edward Norton, in his Oscar-nominated film debut) is accused of brutally murdering an influential Catholic Archbishop. An ambitious defense lawyer (Richard Gere) takes on his case. In the course of the trial, it is revealed that the beloved archbishop had abusive tendencies and had forced altar boys into sex.

    Author: Heike Mund, Elizabeth Grenier

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