July 1, 2022

How the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church Worked

It is a document awaited with anguish by the Catholic Church. The independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church (Ciase) must submit, Tuesday, October 5 in the morning, its report to the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) and to the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France (Corref), to the origin of its creation in 2018, and publish it.

The assessment that it will draw up as well as the recommendations that it will formulate could constitute a shock for Catholics. They could also accelerate the awareness, in the whole of society, of the extent and consequences of sexual violence committed against minors, at a time when a government commission is working on this subject.

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The result of two and a half years of work (more than two thousand pages in total) consists of a report proper of three hundred pages and several voluminous annexes, two of which present the research work carried out one on the archives. , the other on the victims. Their content was presented, in mid-September, orally to representatives of the Catholic Church.

A “common culture” to build

The document gives a large place to the voice of the victims, in the report itself as in an annex which presents a selection of testimonies. The twenty-two members of the commission chaired by the former vice-president of the Council of State Jean-Marc Sauvé respond to the three missions formulated by its sponsors: to shed light on the sexual violence committed by priests and religious on minors or vulnerable adults since 1950; to study the way in which these cases were handled; assess the “anti-abuse” measures taken by CEF and Corref over the past twenty years to advocate for desirable changes.

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Its members affirm it: although created and financed by the Catholic Church, Ciase was able to work without hindrance or pressure. And the Church played the game by opening its archives. All, including the secretary general, Sylvette Toche, and the rapporteurs, were volunteers for an action deemed to be of public interest. “A sign of independence, but also of commitment to an essential issue for French society”, argues the anthropologist Laëtitia Atlani-Duault.

When they met for the first time, in February 2019, at La Barouillère, in the premises of the Sisters Auxiliatrices, in Paris, the twenty-two members of the Ciase were faced with a blank page, even if they had the ‘experience of committees that have previously worked abroad (Australia, USA, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, etc.).

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