Two weeks ago, a bomb exploded in France with the publication of an investigation report into the sexual abuse of minors by clergymen. The report released by an “Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church” found that in the past 70 years, since 1950, more than 200,000 adolescents, mostly boys between the ages of 10 and 13, had been sexually assaulted by thousands of French priests. The independent commission headed by Jean-Marc Sauvé was set up by the Conference of Bishops of France and the Conference of Religious of France in response to calls for greater action to resolve the problem.
Following the publicity that accompanied the publication of the report, Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, was summoned by the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin to explain his remarks made in an interview radio that the seal of the confessional is stronger and above the laws of the republic.
According to a Reuters report, after the meeting, Archbishop Beaufort reversed his position by saying that confessional secrecy should not take precedence over French laws on sex crimes against minors and that rites of confession should be consistent with the need to protect children. He apologized to the victims and those offended by what he said earlier in the interview. In another report from La Croix International, a Catholic daily, Darmanin praised the courage of the Catholic Church in addressing the issue with the creation of the investigative body. He reaffirms the primacy of French laws by saying: “I have allowed myself to repeat to him, as I say to each of the religions, that there is no law superior to the laws of the Republic. A report from the Catholic News Agency said Beaufort was able to discuss with Darmanin the awkward wording of his comments on the denominational seal.
Last week’s column brought some interesting letters. Jose Luis “Linggoy” Alcuaz writes that Archbishop Beaufort is a descendant of Francisco Roxas y Reyes, one of the 13 revolutionaries executed in Bagumbayan on January 11, 1897. Linggoy adds that they are linked by his grandmother Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas. It is also said that in 2018, Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims, was criticized for attending the inauguration of the Great Mosque of Reims. His response: “I would like Catholic men concerned about the problem of Islam in our country to be as devoted to Mass or to Eucharistic adoration as the men I saw at the mosque at the time of prayer.
Another letter from Louie Tordillo says that “your interesting article resonates well and strongly with us after more than five centuries of practicing Christianity. In my wife’s Pangasinan province, we knew a priest who made several women pregnant after being moved from one parish to another after repeated transgressions. In my hometown of Leyte, our pastor openly liaised with a young widow previously married to a relative while driving teenage girls out of the neighborhoods and gave birth to several illegitimate children in the process. In an audience with a bishop in Palo several years ago, I subtly asked his opinion on the matter; he calmly told me that there was simply no clear direction from their hierarchy on this. It really shocked me. No wonder our other pastor at the time was immediately sent for re-education at a church-run convent in Tagaytay after failing to follow financial administration guidelines. I discovered earlier this priest’s passion and preference for minor altar boys during my regular visits to his parish. I bet there are hundreds or maybe thousands of such cases involving the clergy in our country. “
The president-elect of the Philippine Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) is Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, better known as “Bishop Ambo,” a courageous fighter in the war on drugs. He takes over on December 1 of this year. As in France, the CBCP can initiate the formation of an independent commission made up of respected members of the community to address the problem and lift the veil of silence and secrecy that reigns in our country. In the Gospel of the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila last Friday, Jesus is quoted as saying: “Nothing is hidden that is not discovered and nothing secret that is not known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light and what you whisper behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the rooftops. “
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