French Catholic Church to sell assets to compensate abuse victims

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort (center), archbishop of Reims and President of the Conference des Eveques de France (CEF) delivers the closing speech on the last day of the CEF in Lourdes, France on Nov 8, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

LOURDES, France (AFP) - The French Catholic Church will sell properties or possibly secure a loan to finance compensation for thousands of victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy, bishops said on Monday (Nov 8).

Church officials have been under growing pressure to compensate victims after a landmark inquiry by an independent commission confirmed extensive sexual abuse of minors by priests dating from the 1950s to 2020.

The Church will bolster the new fund "by selling real estate assets owned by the Bishops' Conference of France and by dioceses," the conference's president Eric de Moulins-Beaufort said after days of meetings at the Catholic shrine of Lourdes.

An independent commission will be created to evaluate claims, to be led by Marie Derain de Vaucresson, a renowned legal expert on child welfare.

Moulins-Beaufort said it would be modelled on the committee set up two and a half years ago which revealed 216,000 cases of child sexual assault by priests, deacons and other church officials from 1950 to 2020.

The report, presented last month, denounced a "massive phenomenon" that was covered up for decades by a "veil of silence" that protected priests from prosecution.

It urged the Church to pay victims with its own assets, instead of asking parishioners to donate funds to compensate for crimes committed by the clergy.

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