Victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church are set to be financially compensated under plans passed by French bishops today.
The money is indented to help those who were violated as children, who now struggle to stay afloat in their professional and family lives.
President of the Conference of French Bishops and archbishop of Reims Eric de Moulins-Beaufort said the payments recognise the ‘silence, negligence, indifference, lack of reaction or bad decisions or dysfunction within the Church.’
The fund was green-lighted by 120 bishops at their biannual assembly in the southwestern town of Lourdes.
They say the church will appeal for donations to foot the bill.
Bishops are expected to explain more details on the fund’s size and how payments will be made at their next gathering in April.
Members also voted to allocate 5 million euros (£4.3 million) to an independent commission investigating church sex abuse in France and to support prevention efforts.
While it is too early to tell the number of victims eligible for compensation, the probe announced 2,800 people have responded since June to a call for testimonies.
Francois Devaux, president of La Parole Liberee, an association of church sex-abuse victims, said payments will help compensate for the ‘colossal financial impact’ of sex abuse on children who go on to struggle in their adult lives.
A 2016 investigation by online journal Mediapart found 342 cases of abuse over 50 years allegedly covered up by Bishops in France and abroad, implicating at least 34 priests.
The statute of limitations on sex crimes against minors was extended from 20 to 30 years in France last year, but many perpetrators have still been able to escape punishment because of it.
In one of the country’s most high-profile cases the archbishop of Lyon was convicted of failing to alert local authorities of accusations of a priest in his diocese sexually abusing children.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin appealed his six-month suspended sentence and a verdict is expected on November 28.
French bishops had previously dragged their feet over recognising the church’s complicity in decades of sexual abuse, arguing they could not be held responsible for the actions of their priests.
But pressure from victims made them look for guidance from other countries, particularly Belgium and Switzerland, who provided national compensation programmes for those affected by the scandal.
Pope Francis urged action from church leaders after convening the Vatican’s first ever summit on the issue in February, which saw searing testimonies from victims across the world.