Abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and others covered up by Catholic authorities in a “systemic manner,” report says

An estimated 330,000 children were victims of sex abuse within France’s Catholic Church over the past 70 years, according to a report released Tuesday that represents the country’s first major accounting of the worldwide phenomenon, the Associated Press reports.

The figure includes abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and other people involved in the church — wrongdoing that Catholic authorities covered up over decades in a “systemic manner,” according to the president of the commission that issued the report, Jean-Marc Sauvé.

The head of the French bishops’ conference asked for forgiveness from the victims, about 80% of whom were boys, according to the report. The bishops are meeting Tuesday to discuss next steps.

The independent commission urged the church to take strong action, denouncing “faults” and “silence.” It also called on the Catholic Church to help compensate the victims, notably in cases that are too old to prosecute via the courts.

“The consequences are very serious,” Sauvé said. “About 60% of men and women who were sexually abused encounter major problems in their emotional or sexual life.”

“We consider the church has a debt towards victims,” he added.

The 2,500-page document was issued as the Catholic Church in France, like in other countries, seeks to face up to shameful secrets that were long covered up.

Victims welcomed the report as long overdue.

Francois Devaux, head of the victims’ group La Parole Libérée (The Liberated Word), said it was “a turning point in our history.”

He denounced the coverups that permitted “mass crimes for decades.”

“But even worse, there was a betrayal: betrayal of trust, betrayal of morality, betrayal of children, betrayal of innocence,” he said, calling on the church for compensation.

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