French Catholic Church Personnel Sexually Abused 330,000 Minors, Probe Finds

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An investigation of the Catholic Church in France found that priests, church employees and volunteers sexually abused approximately 330,000 minors since 1950.

The finding appears in a voluminous report published Tuesday, the latest in a series of abuse studies that have shaken the Catholic Church in the U.S. and other countries over recent years.

The new report called on church authorities to implement reforms, including better internal safeguards, supervision and training for priests. It also calls for rethinking the theology of the clergy, suggesting that an exaggerated deference to priests made it easier for them to abuse minors.

Archival research and a call for testimony showed roughly 3,000 priests and members of religious orders sexually abused minors since 1950, according to the report.

The numbers “are more than worrying. They are overwhelming,” said Jean-Marc Sauvé, a prominent jurist who led the investigation. “They call for very strong measures.”

Mr. Sauvé noted that the number of victims, based on a large survey, as well as contacts with thousands of victims, had a margin of error of 50,000.

Mr. Sauvé was asked to set up the panel in 2018 by the French Bishops Conference and the national conference of religious orders. Other members of the commission included experts in medicine, law and theology.

The French Bishops Conference wrote Friday on Twitter that “the entire Church has become aware of the seriousness of pedocriminality, and the urgent need to implement concrete and effective means to fight against these terrible acts.”

“We are seeing the scale of the crimes they have committed,” said François Devaux, co-founder of an abuse victims’ group in France, in an interview. He hailed the report as “a turning point in our history.”

Write to Francis X. Rocca at francis.rocca@wsj.com and Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com

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