A victim sexually assaulted by a pedophile priest in France shared his experiences with Sputnik on how he became an advocate for fellow victims and how to make the changes needed amid shocking revelations that more than 216,000 children have been abused in the country. over the years in Catholic churches across the country.
MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – October 09, 2021) A victim sexually assaulted by a pedophile priest in France shared his experiences with Sputnik on how he became an advocate for fellow victims and how to make the necessary changes amid the shocking revelations that over 216,000 children have been abused over the years in Catholic churches across the country.
FranÃ§ois Devaux was a 10-year-old boy in 1991, when he was sexually abused by the priest who was the scout leader of a Catholic church in Lyon, France.
“I was 10 years old. But my story was a little different from everyone else’s, because it was only once. And the same day I told my parents what had happened and they told me. They told me I couldn’t stay in the scout group, “Devaux told Sputnik.
His caring parents tried for eight months to get the religious leaders of the local diocese to hold the priest, whose name was Bernard Preynat, responsible. But her parents’ challenge caused her family to become isolated in the tight-knit local community that depended heavily on the Catholic Church. This is why Devaux never followed what happened to Preynat after his ousting because of the scandal.
When Devaux found out in 2015 that Preynat was still a priest, he was in shock. It was then that he began to come into contact with other victims Preynat abused and created a group called “La Parole LibÃ©rÃ©e” in December 2015.
Through his group of victims, Devaux became an advocate for other victims who were sexually abused under other Catholic priests in France and came into contact with over 1,000 victims from different parts of the country.
In early 2021, Devaux’s plea finally bore fruit when an independent commission was created in France to officially investigate the extent of sexual abuse in the country’s Catholic church.
“We closed this association (group of victims) maybe eight months ago, because we hope this commission would do a great job,” Devaux said.
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE) in France released its final report on Tuesday with shocking conclusions.
âBearing these methodological precautions in mind, the Commission arrived at an estimate of the number of child victims of sexual assault by priests, deacons, monks or nuns at 216,000 over the period from 1950 to 2020, on the basis of the general population survey of 28,010 people aged 18 and over and representative of the French population according to the quota method â, indicates the report.
As for the priest who assaulted Devaux in 1991, he received a 5-year prison sentence in March 2020.
However, many other victims who suffered sexual abuse were not as lucky as Devaux, who had supportive parents who listened to and trusted his stories. Many other relatives of victims refused to believe that priests and nuns could get involved in such devious acts. These victims had to wait many years until the death of their parents, before they could openly share their traumatic experiences.
After learning the stories of other victims of sexual abuse, Devaux argued that the Catholic Church’s system needed to be completely overhauled to prevent similar tragedies from happening.
âThe problem still exists and you can’t say, ‘It’s getting better.’ The problem will continue to exist if the church does not change. They face a huge job to build a new church. I think humanity has no choice. The whole world must work hard to make sure our children are safe, âhe said.
Devaux stressed that sexual abuse in Catholic churches was not a unique problem in France, as similar cases of abuse had also been reported in other countries. In Spain or Italy, the number of victims could be several times higher than in France, noted the activist.
“The problem exists everywhere in the churches. The problem is at the center of the ecclesial system everywhere. We are sure that there are many victims in Spain and Italy, even more than in France. It is because in France, we decided to separate the State from the Church in 1995. But it is not the same in Spain or in Italy â, he declared.
The victims’ lawyer called on the Pope to take the lead in bringing the necessary changes to churches around the world.
“It is a monarchy. When there are no problems, a monarchy could be fine. Now we are sure the problem is the system. The Pope knows all these problems, because the French cases were not the first of these scandals with Catholic Churches. The Pope can do the job (to tackle this problem). If you are the Pope, what are you going to do with all of this tomorrow? ” said Devaux.
Devaux urged the Pope to set up similar commissions of inquiry in other countries to deal with cases of abuse.
Pope Francis said Wednesday he was “ashamed” of the sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests in France.
“I would like to express to the victims my sadness and my pain for the trauma they have suffered. It is also my shame, our shame, for the inability of the church for too long to put them at the center of its concerns” , says the sovereign pontiff.
The Pope urged all bishops to take action to ensure similar abuses do not happen again.