Press release of the Corref: Sisters sexually abused by priests

on 05 Mar, 2019
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Paris (France), 03/05/2019, Sr. Véronique Margron, president of the Corref; F. Marc Botzung and F. Daniel Federspiel, Vice presidents.- On March 5, the channel ARTE broadcast a documentary on the sexual abuse of which nuns were and are victims. This report is chilling and what it portrays hardly bearable. 

What he shows of complicities, lies, betrayals, denials, perversions and criminal and unpunished behavior is untenable. We are amazed by what we have seen and heard. If we can discuss this or that comment, this film shows a cruel and frightful reality. As Cardinal Salazar Gomez, Archbishop of Bogotá, said during the recent summit held in Rome "for the protection of minors", "the enemy is inside". Nowhere else.

The report identifies causes internal to the Church: the sanctity of the priest and the religious, an omnipotent power, a degrading conception of obedience, a sometimes visceral machismo, a hallucinatory deception and a reification of women, including when they find themselves pregnant. He also names exogenous causes such as the deprivation of nuns or the community. A precariousness that can cause a very sexual haggling which superiors are then accomplices.

Did we here in France know the extent of these ignominies? The answer is no. If we tragically had to learn that there are aggressors, predators, rapists, in our Church, imagine situations that confine to the organization of forced prostitution, "sexual slavery" as Pope Francis said in returning from Abu Dhabi on February 7, and again under cover of religious vows, is hardly credible.

While many leaders of international women's religious institutes are very attentive to the protection of their sisters, especially in this or that continent or circumstance, the work of ARTE's investigative journalists is a reminder of the scope of what remains to be done.

To start with - as for pedocriminality1 - to put an end to the impunity of the abusers and with the active or passive complicities. But also flush out, again and again, the deadly link between abuse of power, spiritual abuse and sexual assault.

The only window of hope in these 90 minutes: nuns, religious and laity who stand up with great courage, in Rome, in Quebec, in the United States, in Africa and everywhere against these crimes and these unbearable crimes and accompany the victims.

Corref, for its part, is already engaged in the fight against all abuses. He is and will be long. But our determination is total to support the victims, to support the Institutes and the put everything in place to protect their members and denounce the facts. The International Union of Superiors General,2 in Rome, has made it very clear that all sisters who have been and are victims can speak without fear, knowing that they will be listened to, accompanied, protected.

Corref is relaying this call and supplication so that no one is left behind. Where we, leaders in the Church, have charged, in the name of Christ the servant, to protect the children and the vulnerable, to support the conscience, the dignity, the freedom and the hope of those who with confidence join religious life, we have collectively seriously failed. It is a misfortune as much as a scandal that is not excusable.

It is incumbent on us today to say this fault, responsible for shattered lives, and to engage here and everywhere, so that it cannot continue. The commitment of everyone in the Church and the help of external expertise are indispensable.

1.- We recall here the importance of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church ( set up jointly by the Conference of Bishops of France and our conference.

2.- UISG: