Theology for Millennials: Sexual Abuses in France

Enormous Number of Cases Since 1950

Failure to Keep Children Safe
Hidden child © Vatican Media

On Monday, October 11, 2021, Mexican Father Mario Arroyo Martinez shared with Exaudi’s readers his weekly article in “Theology for Millennials” entitled “Sexual Abuses in France,” in which he reflects on the enormous number of cases that existed in the European country since 1950.

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The news was devastating: in a period of 70 years, between 1950 and 2020, there were 216,000 cases of sexual abuse on minors by clerics in France. The number of aggressors is estimated at between 2,900 to 3,200 priests, revealed the Report directed by Jean-Marc Sauvé.

Pope Francis’ reaction did not take long to come on learning of those abominable deeds, expressing his “sadness and sorrow” for the victims, united to “shame” for the Church’s delay in reacting. “It is the moment of shame,” he said, although he also expressed his closeness to the French clergy, acknowledging that they were going through “a harsh but salutary test.”

The fact is frightful and unjustifiable, lamentable from every point of view. However, I believe it calls for a more profound reflection, precisely to be able to identify the causes of the problem, an indispensable condition to overcome it. A fact whose aim is not to serve as justification, but of contextualization, as during the same period some 5.5 million French children and adolescents suffered sexual assaults.

This makes possible the contextualization of the tragic events, and not only to have the false consolation that abuses on the part of members of the Church represent less than 5%, whereas it is estimated that direct family or political aggressors represent about 80% of assaults. In fact, it’s not about trying to find comparisons that in some way exonerate this horrible fault, but about deepening in the meaning of such high numbers.

In other words, it is an attempt to recognize, together with the fault of the Church, that it’s not only an ecclesial but a social problem. It is something else to pretend to cover the sun with a finger or to seek to make use of statistics exclusively to denigrate an institution and not to resolve the problem. 216,000 are many; 5.5 million also; it’s not an exclusive problem of the Church; it’s a problem of society, of which the Church is only a reflection.

What does this mean? Simply that those of us that form part of the clerical state in the Church are no better than the ordinary and common mortal, but that we are like the rest. The social wounds affect us the same way and that is reflected in the very high numbers of sexual abuses. However, it’s the society that is wounded, not only the Church. The Church acknowledges with shame her part in the fault and she hurts for the victims, and takes measures to eradicate definitively this evil in her ranks, and undertakes a painful but necessary purification of the memory, consistent with the acknowledgment of fault and the petition for forgiveness. Does society do anything?

In addition to being scandalized, does society do anything? Does it investigate the causes? Finally, pedophilia is accepted by the main representatives of the sexual revolution movement, such as Wilhelm Reich, Alfred Kinsey, and Shulamith Firestone. Society has followed in great measure the dictates of this revolution, the “sexual taboos ” have been gradually eliminated and, at present, even movements exist that advocate the legitimization of pedophilia.

In France herself, the age for sexual consent is 15 (before it was 13); if there is consent, it is not a violation for an adult to have relations with an adolescent, at least according to France’s law which now, with a certain touch of Phariseeism, is scandalized by the data the Church offers.

In other words, we cannot be so myopic as not to realize that or sexual customs, the wantonness that is lived in this matter, induces or causes this type of crime. We have trivialized sexuality to such a point that the weakest members of society slide into pedophilia. And it’s not a desire to make the victimizers victims, but neither to close one’s eyes to the fact that they are sick with sex. Sex that is promoted, as active or passive, in an omnipresent way in a society that then is surprised to engender sexual predators. We must at least acknowledge that in this aspect we are not very coherent. The Church is already doing her part; the publication of this painful Report is an example; it is up to society and to culture to give theirs.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester