Pope warns against “interpretation” of report on abuses by French clergy

Pope Francis called for caution in “interpreting” a damning report on child sexual abuse by French Catholic clergy, saying a “historic situation” must be seen in context.

A historic investigation supervised by an independent commission confirmed in October numerous sexual abuses of minors by priests in France dating from the years 1950 to 2020.

“When you do this kind of study, you have to be attentive to the interpretation you make of it,” the 84-year-old pontiff told reporters aboard his flight back from a trip to Greece.

“100 years ago, 70 years ago, the abuse was brutality. But the way it was experienced is not the same as it is today,” he said.

“For example, in the case of abuse in the church, the attitude was to cover up – an attitude that unfortunately still exists today in many families.”

He added that the “historical situation” must be interpreted according to the standards of the time.

When the gossip grows, grows, grows and takes away a person’s reputation, that man will not be able to rule … and that is an injustice

The Pope, who after the report was released expressed “shame”, revealed he had not read it himself but would discuss it with the French bishops when they visit later this month .

Dealing with the avalanche of revelations about sexual abuse by priests was one of the biggest challenges Francis faced when he was elected Pope in 2013.

François Devaux, head of an association of victims in France, expressed his disbelief in the face of the Pope’s “sorry” lack of interest in the French investigation.

“It will show everyone that the Pope is at the heart of the problem,” Devaux told AFP, calling his remarks “ignorance, stupidity and denial”.

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The Pope also condemned “the injustice” of the recent resignation of Michel Aupetit, the archbishop of Paris. Aupetit, 70, resigned following media reports of an intimate relationship with a woman, which he categorically denied.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said at the time that “he behaved ambiguously with someone he was very close to”, adding that it was “not a romantic relationship” or a sexual one.

“When the gossip grows, grows, grows and takes away a person’s reputation, that man will not be able to rule… and that is an injustice,” François said.

“This is why I accepted Aupetit’s resignation, not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy. cannot condemn, ”the Pope added, urging reporters to investigate.

He said Aupetit had been condemned by “public opinion, rumors. But what did he do? We don’t know”.

However, the Pope referred to a violation of the Sixth Commandment – a ban on adultery – saying it was “not total, but small caresses and massages that he gave to his secretary”.

“It is a sin. But it is not the most serious because the sins of the flesh are not the most serious,” he said.

He added: “Aupetit is a sinner. As I am, like Peter, the bishop on whom Christ founded his Church.

In a statement last week, when the Pope accepted his offer, Aupetit said he wanted to “protect the diocese from the division which still causes mistrust and loss of confidence”.

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