They are 330,000 victims of pedocriminality in the French Catholic Church. This is the estimate of the report of the Sauvé commission, published in early October, which takes into account the victims of clerics, religious but also lay people between 1950 and 2020.
A fund has been announced to compensate victims. The French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) announced in November that it would not use donations from the faithful to finance it, but rather by divesting itself of real and personal property. And start by digging into the security reserves of the dioceses.
This fund called Selam (Relief and fight against abuse of minors) must be endowed with 20 million euros initially, at the beginning of 2022. In each diocese, the bursars examine all possible sources of funding.
Draw from the reserves
Real estate is a real source of income for the Church. These are churches, parish halls, patronage halls. The dioceses also derive income from investment properties (houses, apartments, mansions, often received as bequests), housed in a civil society (SCI) or a real estate association. In addition, those who have financial wealth invest it in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.
“In total, on the income from real estate, we build up security reserves. It is, depending on the dioceses, a few months to one or two years of operation, ”explains Ambroise Laurent, deputy secretary general in charge of finance at the CEF. And it is first of all from these reserves that the episcopate intends to draw. The dioceses of Caen-Bayeux and Paris thus ensure that they can easily top up the funds for a first payment, of 70,000 euros for the first, and around 2 million euros for the second.
In the longer term, if the number of victims’ compensation claims turns out to be high, the transfer of real estate is considered. The Diocese of Créteil announced that the bishop’s residence – a pavilion bought ten years ago – would be put up for sale and “more modest accommodation” sought. Enough to “quickly make a first payment,” he said.
The diocese of Caen also confides that it is “in the process of evaluating some properties, two apartments which have no pastoral use”.
“If the Church wanted to send a very strong message, the easiest way would be to sell the Archbishop’s mansion, in the wealthy 7e arrondissement, a mansion worth 40 million euros, which comes from a bequest of more than 100 years from a wealthy donor, ”also believes Jean Chausse, the treasurer of the diocese of Paris.
And a loan?
Again, it will all depend on the number of victims seeking redress. “It is not sure that we need it, however emphasizes Ambroise Laurent, deputy secretary general in charge of finance at the CEF. If ever there is an influx of requests, we reserve the right to take out a loan. “