Sauvé added that “we can say with a high degree of certainty that within the Catholic Church, the abuses mainly concerned men and not women, unlike society.”
French bishops took part in an extraordinary plenary assembly on Feb. 22-24 reflecting on abuse within the Church.
A press statement on Feb. 24 said that the meeting, held via video conference, would help the bishops to prepare for their spring plenary assembly, on March 23-26, “whose goal will be to commit the Church in France for several years to a viable mechanism to lead it out of the crisis of sexual assault and abuse of power.”
In March 2019, Pope Francis issued a set of canonical norms to strengthen existing laws on sexual abuse for the Vatican City State and Roman Curia.
Among these norms, the pope expanded the Church’s definition of a “vulnerable adult” from someone who “habitually lacks the use of reason,” to include anyone “in an infirm state, of physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal freedom, that in fact, even occasionally, limits their capacity to intend or to want or in any way to resist the offense.”
Sauvé declined to provide an update on the last figures that an estimated 1,500 clergy and Church officials are believed to have perpetrated the abuse.
The independent commission was announced by French bishops in November 2018, as they held their plenary assembly in Lourdes.
Pope Francis sent a message to the bishops during their meeting. According to Vatican News, Francis urged the bishops to continue to have “zero tolerance” against clerical sexual abuse while not forgetting “to recognize and support the humble fidelity lived in daily life, with the grace of God, by so many priests, men and women religious, consecrated and lay faithful.”
The pope also asked them to listen to victims and their stories.