French Catholic Church Will Sell Assets to Compensate Abuse Victims

“It’s the sign of a positive dynamic, which must still be confirmed,” Jérôme Chapuis, the editor in chief of La Croix, a respected Catholic newspaper in France, wrote in an editorial on Sunday. “Because this fragile process is only in its early stages.”

The announcement on compensation was widely awaited by victims of clerical abuse, who had balked at earlier suggestions by France’s Catholic leadership that the victims compensation fund should be financed mainly by parishioner donations.

“It’s what we were hoping for,” said Mr. Savignac, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13. “Because it’s the institution that is taking responsibility and paying.”

The Church will sell assets, including real estate, and could even take out a loan if needed, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort said. Each victim will also be compensated individually — another key demand from victims groups, who had rejected suggestions of a flat fee and said each case needed to be evaluated separately. Some victims say they need to recoup years of medical bills and other expenses linked to the trauma caused by the abuse.

Parishioners can still donate money directly to the compensation fund, but general parishioner donations, which account for a large portion of the Catholic Church’s funding in France, will not be used, the bishops said on Monday.

Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort did not provide any details about how much the church expected that the compensation fund would grow, but said it would be endowed gradually as victims came forward. Nor did he provide an inventory of what the church expected to sell. Some French dioceses, like the one in Paris, have sizable real estate assets, but others are struggling financially.

“Obviously we must gather sums that are far greater than what we had imagined, given the scope of the abuse,” he said.

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