We talk about it a lot now, but the silence lasted more than 50 years. In 2018, the testimony of Jean Pierre Sautreau in his book “A cross on childhood” reveals the sexual abuse committed on minors, in particular by members of the Church of Vendée. Since then, a collective of victims has been created.
They finally meet in real life … All were victims of pedophile priests in Chavagnes-en Paillers, Vendée in their younger years.
2 years ago, they organized themselves as a collective to free speech. And, since then, testimonies have been pouring in.
Jean-René, 61 years old today, returned to Chavagnes in 1970. In front of a class photo, he remembers the atmosphere “bizarre” who reigned in his “6e 2” : “the English teacher and his” darlings “that he stroked at the back of the class, forbidding us to turn around”, or these “teachers who came to check that the water was hot enough when it was time to showers”.
He claims to have been assaulted during a retreat, at the time of confession, by a “My lord”.
Most children have been abused in the confessional with often the same question: “Do you have unclean thoughts?”
“I was 10 years old, I didn’t know what an impure thought was, explains Jean-René, I had seen a naked woman, and at that moment he unbuttoned my short panties and he slipped his hand into my panties and throughout confession he played with my genitals. I was petrified. I felt that he was trying to make me have an erection, at 10 years old, it’s not always possible “.
“I got out of there, I was completely freaked out, continues Jean-René, I didn’t know my name anymore, I barely stood on my legs, for years, I said to myself, no, it’s not possible, I dreamed, that a Monsignor would do that, it is Not possible”.
After “a denial” About ten years old, he discovers, dumbfounded, while discussing with classmates of Terminale, that he was not alone.
We are dozens to be there
the “genius manipulator” that Jean-René accuses, Eugène A., had noted his method in a notebook, he assures. “A method he applied, which other predators in Chavagnes used to abuse children as well.”
It was therefore indeed a “system, with regard to all acts” and “to cover everything that happened”, denounces Jean-René.
When a priest was too sulphurous in a place, in a seminary or in a parish, the bishop changed his place
“A cross on childhood”
Among the children of the Petit-Séminaire de Chavagne-en Paillers, Jean-Pierre Sautreau.
“I had this citizen, math teacher here, he shows in a photo, here is my citizen abuser of 6th “.
In 2018, this former student is the first to testify to the sexual abuse suffered in his book “A cross on childhood”
A liberation for hundreds of victims who speak in turn, the subject of his second book “Criez pour nous”.
“I was attacked by a priest in the parish, I was 6 years old, at the time of the little communion, says Colette, it had disastrous consequences for me. In particular, I had an episode of bulimia in adolescence. I was in great pain “.
I realize that in my life it had a big impact
“Discovering this injury in my fifties, since I also had amnesia, allowed me to put words into my life”, adds Colette.
“The first time, I was attacked at the age of 9 as part of the recruitment courses in Chavagnes-en-Paillers for future priests, explains François, I immediately denounced it to my parents, they didn’t believe me. What was complicated is that, to live all childhood while being treated as a liar, a storyteller. “.
I built my life like this, breaking away from parents and adults in general
Act of repentance for the diocese
Last March, the bishopric of Vendée, for the first time, made an act of repentance. Its bishop François Jacolin organized a “repentance” ceremony a year ago. A plaque in memory of the victims was unveiled in the cathedral of Luçon.
The bishop of Vendée was the first in France to publicly recognize the responsibility of the Church. A repentance, the fruit of work carried out with the victims and in which Father François Bidaud participated.
“Recognizing the facts publicly is for people, allowing them to enter into a process of identification, he believes.
For 2 years, Collectif85 has been working to obtain redress. Financial but also psychological repairs.
“A plaque, why not, but if they want to mark the names of the victims, it’s not a plaque, it’s a wall that must be made, considers Jean-François, today the languages are loosened, it is good that we speak about it, that it is known, that it is recognized “.
For us, it’s too late put it must not happen again. Obscurantism is over today, things must be known
There remains financial reparation for the victims.
The group, dissatisfied with the first proposals of the Church, sent a letter to the conference of bishops to ask for reparation commensurate with the facts suffered.
“It’s a just cause, believes Jean-Pierre Sautreau, suppose that the Church does not repair up to the demands of the victims, there will be a terrible disappointment “.
“In the eyes of society, the attitude of the Church at that time will be judged as an abnormal attitude, failing and condemnable “, continues Jean-Pierre Sautreau.
65 officially recorded victims
In Chavagnes-en-Paillers, the Petit-Séminaire welcomed, from the 1950s to its closure in 1972, hundreds of boys, “new vocations” recruited by priests from schools, families or parishes throughout the department.
It was then a question of training them “with ecclesiastical virtues”, from 6th to 12th grade, so that they then enter the major seminary and in turn become a priest or missionary.
In Vendée, 65 victims were officially listed by the diocese of Luçon between the 1950s and 1970s for 45 attackers, including 32 for the minor seminary alone. Figures very far from reality, according to the collective, which estimates the number of these victims at several hundred.
Jean-René, on the basis of testimonies collected by the Collectif85 considers that these are “several hundred, maybe several thousand” of children affected over two decades.
The diocese has also identified 11 aggressor priests, of which there are 14 according to Collectif85.
Two are still alive and, according to the diocese, have “is the subject of a canonical sanction forbidding them to celebrate mass, sacrament, etc …” One is the subject of an open police investigation in Les Sables d’Olonne.
The phenomenon of child crime has been “particularly significant at the Petit-Séminaire de Chavagnes”, told our colleagues from AFP one of the members of the Sauvé commission, which has been investigating sexual violence in the Church for 70 years.
Published next Tuesday, its report will come back to this establishment, a case “paroxysmal and emblematic” where, in some years, “a third of the teaching staff has been accused” of sexual predation, according to this source.