French Catholic Church Will Sell Assets to Compensate Its 330,000 Sex Abuse Victims

The French Catholic Church said Monday that it would provide financial compensation to victims of sexual abuse within the organization by selling property assets or taking out a loan if necessary, the Associated Press reported. A study conducted and recently released by an independent commission projected that roughly 330,000 children were subjected to sexual abuse by priests and other figures in the French Catholic Church over a period of 70 years.

In a written statement, French bishops detailed plans to set up an "independent, national body" that would manage any issues related to the victims' compensation. They also pledged to funnel money into a fund specifically designated "to compensate victims." This money would be obtained by selling property or through a loan, the statement said.

The bishops requested that Pope Francis dispatch "a team of visitors" to complete an assessment of the church's response to protecting children, the AP reported. Among other preventative measures, the bishops also asked for the "systematic verification" of the criminal record for anyone within the church that would work with children.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Church to Compensate Abuse Victims
The French Catholic Church said Monday that it would provide financial compensation to victims of sexual abuse within the organization by selling property assets or taking out a loan if necessary. Catholic Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF), speaks during the publishing of a report by an independent commission into sexual abuse by church officials in Paris on October 5. Thomas Coex/Pool via AP

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the Bishops' Conference, hailed a "decisive step" in a speech.

He stressed that the Church has recognized its "institutional responsibility" and decided to go "on a path of recognition and reparation that paves the way for victims to get the possibility of a mediation and a compensation."

The Bishops Conference held its annual meeting a month after the report revealed large-scale child sex abuse within the French Catholic Church.

"We felt disgust and horror inside us when we realized how much suffering so many people had lived and were still living," Moulins-Beaufort said.

The bishops acknowledged the church's responsibility that implies financial compensation because the commission "strongly suggested that path" but also because "worshippers full of shame were expecting it from us," he said.

The report published last month described "systemic" coverup of abuses by the Catholic Church, and urged the church to respect the rule of law in France.

It said the tally of 330,000 victims includes an estimated 216,000 people abused by priests and other clerics, and the rest by church figures such as Scout leaders and camp counselors. The estimates were based on a broader research by France's National Institute of Health and Medical Research into sexual abuse of children in the country.

France is a traditionally Roman Catholic country, but adheres to a strict form of secularism in public life based on a 1905 law separating church and state.

Abuse Victims' Remembrance Ceremony
French bishops pledged to funnel money into a fund specifically designated “to compensate victims” of sexual abuse within the French Catholic Church. Bishops gesture on the forecourt of the Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire basilica in the sanctuary of Lourdes, southwestern France, November 6 during a ceremony to honor sexual abuse victims. Bob Edme/AP Photo