Three French figures – including a theologian – have launched an appeal for all of France’s bishops to resign in the wake of a report last week which found 'systemic' child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
"Faced with failure, the only honourable way out is for bishops to resign,” reads the appeal.
It follows a damning report published last week by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase) which estimated that about 330,000 children in France have been sexually abused over the past seven decades within France’s Catholic Church.
"Much more than failures, the Ciase report highlights real bankruptcy", write the signatories of the appeal: theologian Anne Soupa, editor Christine Pedotti and François Devaux (co-founder of the victims' association La Parole Libérée).
"Any organisation, association or company would draw the necessary conclusions and get rid of its leaders," they write. "We're asking, as a sign of hope and renewal, that all bishops in office resign."
They say resignation is "the only gesture commensurate with such a catastrophe", but also point out it's the only way to compensate victims because "the church is bankrupt and worshippers do not want to pay for errors they haven’t committed".
They cite two precedents in the Catholic Church abroad.
In May 2018, 34 Chilean bishops handed in their resignation to Pope Francis after widespread sexual abuse was reported. In Germany, the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, offered his resignation in June 2021 to draw attention to the "institutional or systemic failures" over child sex abuse in the Church although he himself had not failed. Pope Francis refused his resignation.
The Sauvé report continues to make waves in France on social media.
On Friday, the hashtags #AussiMonÉglise and #MyChurchToo, relayed by Catholic influencers like Erwan Le Morhedec started trending on Twitter. Catholic faithful, both practising and non-practising, expressed outrage and questioned what reforms are needed.
"To the victims who are reading this, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you yesterday,” wrote Le Morhedec – author of the blog koztoujours. “Please believe that we want to be there today. As lay people, we demand the necessary reforms. Not on the cheap, not just the minimum, but ambitious [reforms]", he said.
"This must never happen again. We owe it to the victims,” wrote François Mandil, former head of communications for the Scouts and Guides of France. “It requires profound ecclesiastic renewal. We must not rule out any avenue, especially those of the Ciase.”