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A 2,500-page report conducted by an independent investigation into allegations of abuse and subsequent cover-ups within the Catholic Church in France said a “veil of silence” allowed clergy to assault victims for decades.

Jean-Marc Sauve, the chairman of the commission that examined the allegations, found that the French Catholic Church had shown “A deep and even cruel indifference towards the victim” until the 2000s, condemning the hierarchy and the dysfunction of the church for not having stopped it.

Over the past 70 years, the survey has found that approximately 216,000 children have been abused, with the number rising to 330,000 including lay members. Out of a total of 115,000 priests and clergy during this period, evidence showed that 2,900 to 3,200 were accused of abuse.

Save blamed one “veil of silence” within the French Catholic Church, ensuring that the victims are “not believed, not heard,” and allowing “systemic” abuses to proliferate for decades without being challenged.

“It’s devastating, because the ratio between 216,000 and 3,000 is one aggressor for 70 victims. It is terrifying for French society, for the Catholic Church ”, Olivier Savignac, head of the victims association “Parler et Revivre”, which means “Speak Out and Live Again”, said before the report was published.

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The commission had spent two and a half years reviewing evidence, speaking to victims and witnesses, and investigating church, court, police and press records, dating back to the 1950s. One Line telephone line established to answer calls from potential victims or those who knew someone who had been abused received approximately 6,500 calls.

The investigation handed over 22 allegations of crimes to prosecutors for them to consider whether charges can be laid against the alleged assailants. More than 40 criminal cases could not lead to prosecution because they are too old, even though the alleged perpetrators are still alive. These cases will be provided to church officials for processing within the clergy.

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