Home World Pedocriminality in the Church: Very Contrasting Responses in Ireland, Poland and Canada

Pedocriminality in the Church: Very Contrasting Responses in Ireland, Poland and Canada

It is a shock wave for the entire French Catholic Church. An independent commission which investigated sexual violence within the Church in France estimated Tuesday, October 5 at 216,000 the number of minors victims of priests, deacons and religious since 1950. An observation “overwhelming” greeted with “shame” and “dread” by the Conference of Bishops.

In Ireland, not one, but several commissions of inquiry

Reports have followed one another in Ireland for several years, a sign of the Church’s omnipresence in Irish society. There was the Ryan report in 2009, a model of its kind, on child crime in the Church and mistreatment in schools and boarding schools run by clerics; the McAleese report, in 2013, on Madeleine laundries, asylums where prostitutes, orphans and homeless had to work without pay … The most recent date from January 2021. This is the Murphy report, on mothers’ homes unmarried and the physical and psychological abuse suffered by women. This influence the Church could not have achieved without the support of the Irish State, which funded it and turned a blind eye to its actions, for example on the conditions in boarding schools or on the forced adoptions of children. born out of wedlock. Even though today’s Ireland has modernized, the vast majority of schools and some hospitals are still run by religious orders.

Despite this succession of inquiries, the victims still do not feel heard. They believe that their testimonies are watered down by the commissions of inquiry and that the institutions above all want to move on. As for compensation, the definition of victim is often ultra-restrictive. All cases combined, the Irish Church has pledged more than two billion euros, but it still has not completed the first round of compensation, twelve years after the Ryan report. In fact, she spent more in legal costs than in compensation.

In Poland, the taboo is slowly receding

In very Catholic Poland, the subject of child crime within the Church was still taboo not long ago, but this has changed in recent years. The Polish clergy did not really have the choice to face their demons, under media and popular pressure. Several films released in quick succession to show another face of the Church have shocked public opinion. The fictional film Kler featuring mafia priests, alcoholics and pedophiles and the film Above all don’t tell anyone of the Sekielski brothers. This documentary gives voice to the victims of pedophile priests, it confronts them with a hidden camera to their attackers and denounces the passivity of the hierarchy within the clergy to punish its priests. Some were covered for years by the bishops and continued with impunity to exercise their profession and commit their acts.

According to a first Church survey revealed three years ago, nearly 400 Polish priests and religious have committed acts of pedophilia since 1990. A result which has angered a large part of society for whom this figure is grossly underestimated. Even the Child and Youth Protection Coordinator at the Polish Episcopate admitted that this is only the tip of the iceberg. But this investigation has at least had the merit of loosening the tongues. In June 2021, the Church acknowledged having received since the publication of this first report several hundred new complaints. In addition, since 2020, the Vatican has sanctioned half a dozen Polish bishops, archbishops and cardinals for covering up acts of pedophilia.

In Canada, no national commission of inquiry

As early as the 1980s and 1990s, victims of sexual abuse in Canada came together to hold certain religious congregations to account. Yet there is still no national commission of inquiry into the matter. In Quebec alone, the daily The duty estimated at around 10,000 the number of minors who would have been sexually abused by nearly 800 priests between 1940 and 2020. A number which may seem important for a population of just over 8 million inhabitants, probably because The Church has long supported the education and care of the poorest in the absence of public social programs.

Since the 2000s, several religious congregations have been ordered by the courts to pay compensation to victims of sexual abuse. This does not necessarily mean that these people received compensation. Some religious communities suddenly decided to change their name and place their assets in new foundations. Sometimes the very definition of reparations does not seem clear enough. For example, the Catholic Church was to pay tens of millions of euros to survivors of residential schools who were forcibly educated in these schools throughout the 20th century. In reality, only part of the sums were actually paid to the people directly concerned. Others have instead funded religious activities in these communities. This is why several groups of victims are calling for neutral treatment of their requests, which could go through the State.

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