France’s top bishop said Tuesday that the secrecy of the confession should not take precedence over French laws on sex crimes against children, reversing his previous position after he was subpoenaed by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
Following the publication of a damning report on clergy sexual abuse of children, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims and director of the French Episcopal Conference, said in a radio interview last week that the rule of secrecy it would avoid a priest for denouncing the sexual crimes against children that were revealed during the Catholic confession.
Under French law, anyone who has knowledge of a sexual offense against a minor is obliged to report it to the authorities and runs the risk of heavy fines and imprisonment for failing to do so.
After meeting with Darmanin on Tuesday, de Moulins-Beaufort said in a statement that the rite of confession must fulfill the need to protect children.
He also apologized to those offended by what he had said during his interview last week.
How and when will the French Church compensate victims of “systemic” child abuse?
In the Catholic religion, confession is a rite during which the faithful acknowledge their sins to a priest and seek God’s forgiveness. It is usually done anonymously in a confession booth, behind a screen, so that the priest can hear but not see the penitent.
Darmanin also told lawmakers Tuesday that he had reaffirmed the primacy of French laws during his meeting with de Moulins-Beaufort.
He said that confessional secrecy in the Catholic Church could not be used as a justification for not reporting sexual crimes against children.
The French Catholic Church has had an estimated 3,000 pedophiles in its ranks over the past 70 years, the head of an independent commission investigating the sex abuse scandal said in an interview published Oct. 3.
The scandal in the French Church was the latest to hit the Roman Catholic Church, which has been rocked by sexual abuse rapes around the world, often involving children, over the past 20 years.