Religion: Castex meets the Pope, in the middle of a storm for the Church of France

the essential Jean Castex is received Monday morning in Rome by Pope Francis in a stormy context for the Church of France, faced with shattering revelations on sexual abuse and a controversy around the ” secret of confession “.

The visit of Jean Castex, long planned to celebrate the centenary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See, is shaken by the news after the publication on October 5 of the conclusions of the Independent Commission on the abuses sexual intercourse in the Church (Ciase), chaired by the senior official Jean-Marc Sauvé.

If the Prime Minister, received in private audience by the Sovereign Pontiff, should according to his entourage evoke several subjects on which France and the Vatican converge (access to vaccines for all, climate change, Lebanon …), it is impossible to conceal the extent figures from the report: 216 000 minors assaulted by a priest or a religious in France for years 1950, 330 000 counting the lay aggressors in connection with the institutions of the Church.

Especially since since his election in 2013, the Pope has made the fight against sexual abuse – “instrument of Satan” – one of the priorities of his pontificate.

“Shame and pain”

François has already expressed his “shame” and his “pain” following the Sauvé report and Jean Castex will assure that he will follow “very closely the decisions that the bishops will take in the coming weeks”, according to his advisers. .

But the debate was also tied around the secrecy of the confession, that the president of the Conference of the bishops of France (CEF) Emmanuel de Moulins-Beaufort had judged “superior to the laws of the Republic”, before back pedaling and of evoke an “awkward formulation”.

On this point, Jean Castex, who will meet during the morning in Rome several dignitaries of the Holy See as well as representatives of the French ecclesiastical community, should limit the debate to national borders by recalling that “the interlocutor of the government, c ‘is the Church of France “.

“The stone is above all in the garden of the bishops” of France, who will have to “say how to articulate the protection of children and the secrecy of confession which, in French law, is a professional secrecy, neither more nor less”, insist the services of the Prime Minister.

One way not to rush the Vatican, which itself is walking on eggshells: on the one hand, a crime report form was made available to every clergyman in July 2020; on the other hand, the Holy See confirmed the primacy of the secrecy of confession, the confessor being simply encouraged to “try to convince the penitent” to alert people in a position to take legal action.

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