The Catholic Church in France is collecting 20 million euros in compensation for victims of child sexual abuse

Catholic dioceses in France have raised 20 million euros ($ 22.6 million) to compensate thousands of victims of historic child sexual abuse by priests, the fund, which is responsible for raising the money, said on Tuesday.

Church officials have been under intense pressure to acknowledge and compensate the victims after a French investigation confirmed widespread abuse of minors by priests, deacons and lay members from the 1950s.

“This is a first step. The Church has followed its commitment,” Gilles Vermot-Desroches, president of the Selam Foundation, told AFP after its board meeting on Monday.

An initial € 5 million will be set aside for claims, which are being studied by an independent panel set up in the wake of the condemnatory abuse report released in October.

It found that 216,000 minors had been abused by priests in the past seven decades, a number that climbed to 330,000 when claims against lay people in the church were included, such as teachers at Catholic schools.

The commission that produced the report condemned the “systemic nature” of efforts to protect priests from prosecution and called on the church to pay the victims with its own resources, instead of asking parishioners to contribute.

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF), has said the church will sell real estate and use its financial holdings, and possibly take out a bank loan to raise the money.

But it has also told parishioners that they can make donations to the fund.

Vermot-Desroches did not provide a detailed breakdown of the source of the initial € 20 million, but said the CEF, individual bishops and “the vast majority” of dioceses across France contributed.

Crime victim associations have demanded compensation payments that would cost the church tens of millions of euros.

Widespread cases of sexual abuse in the church around the world have become one of the biggest challenges for Pope Francis, who expressed his “shame” after the release of the French investigation.


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