The Prime Minister’s visit falls amid a storm for the Church of France. Jean Castex will be received on Monday, October 18 in the morning in Rome by Pope Francis in a stormy context for the Church of France, faced with shattering revelations on sexual abuse and a controversy around the “Secret of confession”.
The visit of Mr. Castex, long planned to celebrate the centenary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See, is shaken by the news after the publication, on October 5, of the conclusions of the Independent Commission on sexual abuse in the Church (Ciase), chaired by the senior official Jean-Marc Sauvé.
If the Prime Minister, received in private audience by the Sovereign Pontiff, should, according to his entourage, evoke several subjects on which France and the Vatican converge (access to vaccines for all, climate change, Lebanon …), it is impossible to conceal the extent figures from the report: 216,000 minors attacked by a priest or a religious in France since the 1950s, 330,000 including lay aggressors in connection with the institutions of the Church.
One of the priorities of his pontificate
Especially since since his election in 2013, the Pope has made the fight against sexual abuse – “Instrument of Satan” – one of the priorities of his pontificate. François has, moreover, already expressed his “shame” and his ” pain “ following the Sauvé report and Mr. Castex will ensure that he will follow “Very closely the decisions that the bishops will take in the coming weeks”, according to his advisers.
But the debate was also tied around the secrecy of the confession, which the president of the Conference of the bishops of France (CEF), Emmanuel de Moulins-Beaufort, had judged “Superior to the laws of the Republic”, before back-pedaling and evoking a “Clumsy wording”.
On this point, Mr. Castex, who will meet during the morning in Rome with several dignitaries of the Holy See as well as representatives of the French ecclesiastical community, should limit the debate to national borders by recalling that “The interlocutor of the government is the Church of France”.
“The stone is above all in the garden of the bishops” from France, who will have to “To say how to articulate the protection of children and the secrecy of confession which, in French law, is a professional secrecy, neither more nor less”, insist the services of the Prime Minister.
One way not to rush the Vatican, which itself is walking on eggshells: on the one hand, a crime report form was made available to any clergyman in July 2020; on the other hand, the Holy See confirmed the primacy of the secrecy of confession, the confessor being simply encouraged to “To try to convince the penitent” to alert people in a position to take legal action.
Strengthening of external borders
In the afternoon, Mr. Castex, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, will be expected at the Palazzo Chigi by the head of government and former boss of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi.
The opportunity to further embody the warming of relations between France and Italy, marked by episodes of tension, especially on the migration issue when the far-right leader Matteo Salvini was Minister of the Interior.
The subject will obviously be invited again to the table of discussions while France will exercise, from the 1er next January, the rotating presidency of the European Union. In this context, Paris intends to make strengthening Europe’s external borders one of its priorities, in particular by setting up secure registration camps at the main gateways to the continent, including Italy.
The challenge is to get Rome to put in place this filtering, which will condition a “Solidarity policy”, that is to say the allocation of funds, the subject of close negotiations in Brussels for a year.
Finally, MM. Castex and Draghi should affirm their desire to see a rapid outcome, perhaps by the end of the year, of the Quirinal draft treaty, initiated in 2017 and which is intended to give “A more stable and ambitious framework” Franco-Italian cooperation, on the model of the Elysée Treaty between France and Germany.
Publication of the report of the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: what you need to know
On Tuesday, October 5, the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church released its report. It estimates the number of victims, during their minority, of sexual violence on the part of a priest, a deacon or a religious, in the current population aged 18 and over, at 216,000 people. To understand everything, the articles of the World on the subject :
- The Catholic Church is the institution where the rate of sexual violence against minors is the highest after the family: the overwhelming inventory of the Sauvé commission
- Responsibility of the institution, compensation for victims, governance… The recommendations of the commission on sexual abuse in the Church
- Victims’ associations demand the application of Ciase’s recommendations
- “The Church needs a real aggiornamento”: read the editorial
- “Clerical predation remains at a significant level, although lower than in the first decades of the period analyzed”: read the interview with historian Philippe Portier
- For Ciase, the secrecy of confession “cannot be opposed to the legal obligation to report sexual violence” on minors: read the interview with the anthropologist Laëtitia Atlani-Duault
- “Outside the family, the Catholic Church is the first institution for the frequency of sexual violence”: read the interview with sociologist Nathalie Bajos
- Sexual violence under the gaze of the social sciences: read the decryption
- Behind the scenes of the Sauvé commission
- Jean-Marc Sauvé, the confessor of sexual violence in the Church: read the portrait