« The silence of the bishops is deafening on the spiritual dimension of these abuses »
With the discovery of the “Michel Santier” affair, the world is once again collapsing around us, people who have been victims of a cleric, children or adults, and who are desperately trying to rebuild ourselves. Torn between anger and discouragement, our thoughts turn first to these two men who knew how to find the strength to break their silence and denounce the sexual violence committed thirty years ago. They are our chain mates, our suffering brothers, we want to show them our support.
A culture of silence
In November 2021, after asking God for forgiveness for all these attacks, for the immobility of the Church in their treatment, for the culture of silence that has prevailed for so many long years, you voted for a certain number of decisions to initiate the transformation of the Church. And at the same time, one of you was the subject of a canonical sanction for serious acts perpetrated on young adults.
By hiding this sanction from the people of God, the people of the three dioceses concerned, and more broadly all the faithful, lay people and priests, you have once again repeated this culture of silence that is so deleterious for everyone. And this has a name, very rightly said by the two editorial writers of The cross and of Life, you have committed a breach of trust. The effort of truth that you have repeatedly promised us would have been to officially announce the decision and the reason for Michel Santier’s resignation. Of course the shock would have been terrible, but it is even more so today to discover that you lied to us.
Denial of assaults on adults
This terrible case raises several important questions for which we await your answers. First of all, it reveals the reluctance (not to say denial) of the bishops (and of the faithful) to accept and take into account the aggression of adults. Proof of this is today, the absence of their mention in the mission letter of the Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation (Inirr).
Yes, adults are or have been sexually assaulted by clerics who put them under control, manipulated, made them vulnerable for their personal satisfaction. And, precisely because they were under the influence, they were unable to resist or flee. And they carry the shame of it all their life… Do not add to their shame and their suffering, the absence of humanity and fraternal accompaniment. What do you intend to do for them and for adult victims?
We hear more and more around us about “strip-confession” (which therefore consists of undressing during the sacrament of reconciliation) as a known practice. Confessors would therefore indulge in such degrading practices in the Church without anyone intervening? How is it possible ? We insistently ask you, what do you intend to do to prohibit and firmly condemn such acts?
During this terrible affair, three desecrations were committed: that of the bodies of these young people, that of the sacrament of reconciliation, that of the Eucharist since the facts took place before the tabernacle. These facts are extremely serious, but if we were able to read the press releases of the three bishops concerned on the facts and the sanction, the silence is deafening on the spiritual dimension of these abuses. Not a word. What are you going to say?
Religious communities are not places of care for sex offenders
Michel Santier received the punishment of withdrawing in prayer and he was « given as chaplain » to nuns. This shocks us! What consideration do you have for women’s religious life to send them a chaplain guilty of this triple profanation? Every day the one who profaned the body of these young people will preside over the celebration of the body of Christ for them? And if among them is a victim of sexual assault, how will she experience that?
It is inconceivable for us that he could continue to publicly celebrate the sacraments he profaned. Again, you told us to share this analysis. We repeat it forcefully, monasteries and female or male religious communities are not places of detention or places of care, neither for pedocriminals nor for sex offenders. What are you going to do ?
How to keep confidence?
We have chosen to work with you to change things. During these three years of joint work, little by little we have, in dialogue and mutual listening, without concession and sometimes painfully, sought to share with you our experiential knowledge, to open your eyes to the reality of these abuses. and abuses in the Church and challenge you to radically rethink how you handle and prevent these situations.
We have faced many attacks for choosing this path, but we will not give up. Today, like many faithful of the Church of France, we are scandalized, discouraged, annihilated. How to keep trust, how to trust yourself again?