A victim sexually abused by a pedophile priest in France shared his experiences with Sputnik on how he became an advocate for other victims and how to bring necessary changes amid the shocking revelations that over 216,000 children were abused over the years in the country's Catholic churches
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 09th October, 2021) A victim sexually abused by a pedophile priest in France shared his experiences with Sputnik on how he became an advocate for other victims and how to bring necessary changes amid the shocking revelations that over 216,000 children were abused over the years in the country's Catholic churches.
"I was 10. But my story was a little bit different from others' stories, because it was one time only. And on the same day, I told my parents what happened and they trusted me. They told me that I couldn't stay in the boy scout group anymore," Devaux told Sputnik.
His supportive parents tried for eight months to get the religious leaders at the local diocese to hold the priest, whose name was Bernard Preynat, responsible. But his parents' defiance made his family become isolated in the close-knit local community that depended heavily on the Catholic church. That's why Devaux never followed what happened to Preynat after he was ousted because of the scandal.
When Devaux found out in 2015 that Preynat was still serving as a priest, he was in complete shock. That's when he started to get in touch with other victims that Preynat abused and established a group named "La Parole Libérée (The Liberated Word) in December 2015.
Through his victims' group, Devaux became an advocate for other victims that faced sexual abuse under other Catholic priests in France and got in touch with over 1,000 victims from different parts of the country.
"We closed this association (victims' group) maybe eight months ago, because we trust that this commission would do a great job," Devaux said.
"Keeping these methodological precautions in mind, the Commission arrived at an estimate of the number of child victims to have suffered sexual assault at the hands of priests, deacons, monks or nuns to be 216 000 over the period from 1950 to 2020, based on the general population survey of 28 010 persons aged 18 and over and representative of the French population in accordance with the quota method," the report said.
However, many other victims who experienced sexual abuse were not as fortunate as Devaux, who had supportive parents that listened to and trusted his stories. Many other victims' parents refused to believe that the priests and nuns could get involved in such devious acts. Those victims had to wait for many years until their parents' death, before they could openly share their traumatic experiences.
"The problem still exists and we cannot say: 'It's getting better.' The problem will continue to exist if the church does not change. They face a huge job to build a new church. I think humanity doesn't have a choice. The whole world needs to work hard to make sure our children are safe," he said.
Devaux pointed out that sexual abuse in Catholic churches was not a unique problem in France, as similar cases of abuse had been reported in other countries as well. In Spain or Italy, the number of victims could be several times higher than in France, the activist noted.
"The problem exists in churches everywhere. The problem is in the center of the church system everywhere. We're sure that there're many victims in Spain and Italy, even more than in France. That's because in France, we decided to separate the state from the church in 1995. But it's not the same in Spain or Italy," he said.
"This is a monarchy. When there're no problems, a monarchy could be fine. Now, we're sure the system is the problem. The Pope knows all those problems, because the French cases were not the first of such scandals with Catholic churches. The Pope can do the job (to tackle this problem). If you're the Pope, what are you going to do with all that tomorrow?" Devaux said.
Devaux urged the Pope to set up similar investigation commissions in other countries to address abuse cases.
Pope Francis said on Wednesday that he was "ashamed" of the sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests in France.
"I would like to express to the victims my sadness and pain for the trauma that they suffered. It is also my shame, our shame, for the incapacity of the church for too long to put them at the center of its concerns," the supreme pontiff said.
The Pope urged all bishops to take action to ensure similar abuses would not be repeated.