French Catholic church bishop says protecting minors from sexual abuse ‘absolute priority’

Oct 13, 2021: Protecting children from sexual abuse is an “absolute priority” for the Catholic Church, a French archbishop said on Tuesday, backing away from previous comments advising pastors not to violate confessional secrets.

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort infuriated groups of victims last week after he said the confidentiality of the confession was “above the laws of the Republic.”

His comments came as an independent report revealed tens of thousands of cases of sexual abuse by clergy in the French Catholic Church over the past seven decades.

The archbishop met with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday at the request of President Emmanuel Macron. He then reiterated the commitment of “all bishops and all Catholics” to make child protection an absolute priority, in close cooperation with the French authorities.

“The scope of violence and sexual assault against minors through the report requires the church to reconsider its approach in light of this fact,” he said in a statement. “It is therefore important that the nature of the confession be matched with the need to protect children,” he added.

Although French law recognizes the professional secrecy of the sacred confession, it also says that this privilege does not apply to cases involving violence against minors. De Moulins Beaufort reiterated his “shame and embarrassment” over 216,000 cases of child sexual abuse by clergy since 1950, the report said.

The abuse was covered up by Catholic Church superiors in a systemic “veil of secrecy”,according to the report.

He promised to “make the necessary reforms for the French Catholic Church to gain the trust of everyone”, and said that he had asked Pope Francis to meet with the authors of the report at the Vatican.

Francis has already expressed his “shame and disgrace” over the landmark report.

It recommends a number of measures to protect minors from predatory pastors, including the need for pastors to report to the prosecution any child abuse they hear about in confession.

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