The first compensation for victims of child crime within the Church of France has been paid, the Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation said on Sunday. The Selam fund, responsible for paying financial reparations, welcomes this, but the victims’ associations are growing impatient and deeming it “indecent” to “gargle” about six compensations in eight months. These call into question the methods used, both in substance and in form.
After the word was released, the first victims compensated. They are six to have obtained financial compensation from the fund for Solidarity and the fight against sexual assault on minors (Selam), created after the publication of the Sauvé report which highlighted the sexual abuse committed within the French Catholic Church. .
According to the report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase), submitted in November 2021 by Jean-Marc Sauvé, 330,000 people over the age of 18 have been the subject of sexual violence since 1950 while they were minors, on the part of clerics, religious or people connected with the Church.
The Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation (Inirr) was created to process reparation files once the victims’ complaints have been verified. It is then the Selam fund which is responsible for paying compensation.
Since November 2021, at least 736 victims have contacted the Inirr. Its president, Marie Derain de Vaucresson, had mentioned, in early June to the press, amounts of 8,000, 10,000 or 21,000 euros. The repair does not include a “floor” threshold, but can go up to the “maximum amount” of “60,000 euros”, also specified the president of the Selam fund, Gilles Vermot-Desroches.
While some welcome these first payments, the victims are growing impatient. Six compensation in eight months is too little and too long, believe the associations, who denounce the opacity of a procedure over which the victims have no control.
>> To read also: “Sexual abuse in the Church: with the Sauvé report, ‘it is a question of looking the disaster in the face'”
“The longer the situation lasts, the more it is psychologically untenable”
“We had a board of directors which followed and decided for (…) six situations that the Inirr had transmitted”, welcomed Gilles Vermot-Desroches, Sunday July 10 with AFP.
“Aren’t they ashamed?”, reacts Michel, founding member of Collectif 85, a collective of victims of sexual violence in the Church of Vendée. “To gargle six indemnities while the decision [de mettre en place un mécanisme de réparation, NDLR] was taken in November 2021, it is totally indecent”, he continues.
Speaking on behalf of the collective founded with Jean-Pierre Sautreau, author of the book “A cross on childhood” (ed. Moissons noirs), Michel denounces an “opaque and incomprehensible” procedure which leaves the victims in great disarray. “Making a claim for compensation is an act that makes us psychologically vulnerable,” he says, but in addition, once the request is made, we receive an acknowledgment of receipt and then nothing.
He made his claim for compensation at the end of March and has no information on the progress of the processing of his file. However, in this boat where several hundred people are on board, Michel considers himself lucky, because he can at least rely on the members of his collective. “What about single, isolated people who apply for compensation?” he asks. “They receive an acknowledgment of receipt, and period.”
At 1er June, several groups of victims had already regretted the slowness with which, according to them, the files are advancing, considering too few people compensated, six months after the filing of the first requests.
“We have to find a way to speed things up,” insists Michel, who asks that the Inirr provide at least a timetable. “The longer the situation lasts, the more it is psychologically untenable. The victims relive what the institution [l’Église, NDLR] has already done to them: she walks them.”
“Systemic, and sometimes systematic”
Upstream of the duration of file processing, it is the calculation of the compensation that raises questions.
“How to repair the irreparable? None of us can repair a life, but that does not mean that nothing should be repaired at all”, said to France 24, last October, sister Véronique Margron, president of the Conference of Men and Women Religious of France (Corref), after the publication of the Sauvé report.
But how to estimate such damage? In charge of studying the requests, the Inirr has established several levels of compensation according to the seriousness of the cases, according to three axes, which each go from one to ten. The first axis evaluates the seriousness of the acts of sexual violence, the second measures the seriousness of the “failures” of the Church, the third evaluates “the seriousness of the consequences on health” (physical, mental and social).
The method was presented at the beginning of June by the president of the Inirr, Marie Derain de Vaucresson, and left many victims speechless. “I came home very angry,” recalls Michel. For him, the scale followed is stained with absurdities. “The question of rape is divided into five to seven items, with criteria such as the repetition of rape beyond two or three months, or from three months to a year, for example.” On the other hand, he laments, the precise age at which the abuse occurred is not taken into account – all the files concern minors at the time of the events.
“Today, we have sufficient elements to know that there was the systemic side, and even the systematic nature in certain cases”, affirms the co-founder of Collectif 85. “It happened within the framework of the Church, a spiritual, sacramental framework… It causes enormous things, and yet the aggravating factors such as the influence do not appear [dans les méthodes de calcul de l’indemnisation des victimes, NDLR].”
On Franceinfo, François Devaux, former president of La parole liberated, meanwhile evoked a “shipwreck”, and affirmed that all the victims he knows have complained of the authorities which have risen to grant them compensation. “We do not redeem such serious faults by leveling down the prejudice of the victims, and by setting up commissions which work in opacity”, added the one whose association broke the silence by denouncing, in 2016 , the sexual abuse committed by Father Preynat in the Lyon region.
>> To read also: “Child crime in the Church: ‘It is likely that this will cause a schism'”
What about adults?
Finally, and this is an “injustice” that Michel wishes to underline, “what happens to adults?”
In its report, in October 2021, “for lack of sufficient scientific certainty”, Ciase said “to give up assessing the number of people who were victims of sexual assault in the Church when they were of age”.
The Inirr reparation process today only concerns people who were minors at the time of the events. “All persons who were victims, when they were minors, of sexual violence by priests, deacons or lay people within the Church and who would like to enter into a process of recognition and reparation, can contact the Inirr” , recalls the structure on its website. The Selam fund, as its name suggests, aims to financially repair the damage suffered by minors.
“Adults see the train go by, but cannot get on it”, denounces Michel, of Collectif 85. “A rape is a rape, he continues. Whether it is committed on a child of 10 years old or 20 years old , by a Dominican or a Jesuit, the brutality of the act, the cruelty and the consequences on the life of the victim are terrible and there is a need for reparation and justice.”
Taking the example of the case of Pierre Dufour, convicted in 2006 for rape and sexual assault on minors as well as adults in the archdiocese of Chambéry, Maurienne and Tarentaise (Savoie), Michel concludes: “The Church is a company that has been guilty of criminal deviance. It must repair the injustice it has committed.” Reparation due to all the victims, he repeats, minors or majors.