The Bishops of France are to consider in a biannual meeting this week a “financial gesture” to victims of clergy sex abuse.

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The compensation plan for survivors of abuse is just one of the issues on the table for the 120 French bishops gathered at an assembly in the sanctuary of Lourdes from Tuesday to Sunday.

Conference of French Bishops spokesman Thierry Magnin told France Info radio that the compensation plan could begin as early as 2020.

Magnin had said in a pre-assembly interview with Europe 1 that the money would be “an allowance in recognition of suffering”.

The bishops already agreed in principle last year to fund the compensation.


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Go deeper

In terms of the clergy sex abuse crisis, the French bishops are also slated to discuss this week other ways of memorialising victims’ suffering and also how to step up sex abuse prevention efforts.

They will also hear a report from Jean-Marc Sauvé, a former vice-president of France’s highest administrative court who is heading up an inquiry into sex abuse in the French Church that in its first three months of existence to September received over 2,000 complaints.

A more controversial initiative the bishops have also flagged for discussion is that of “support for guilty clerics”.

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What’s next

The Bishops’ discussions on the pedophilia crisis will be held behind closed doors on Thursday and Friday.

For Tuesday and Wednesday, however, they have been joined in their assembly for the first time ever by laypeople for discussions on ecology and the environment.

55 laymen, 49 laywomen, nine priests and four permanent deacons – a maximum of two non-bishops per diocese – joined the bishops for the opening of the meet Tuesday in what the French Bishops Conference called an unprecedented “synodal exercise”.

On Tuesday, a total of 330 assembly participants heard French Bishops’ President and Archbishop of Reims Eric de Moulins-Beaufort insist on the need to change production and consumption patterns in society.

“Our time will go down in history as a time when humanity became aware of the limits of the planet’s resources”, de Moulins-Beaufort said.

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Why it matters

Explaining to La Croix the French Bishops’ inclusion of laypeople in their assembly, theologian Arnaud Join-Lambert said it was a reminder that “the Church is lived, carried, nourished by all its members, each according to its own charisms, ministries and functions”.

“For many centuries, the Church has functioned according to a dual system that distinguishes the ‘cleric’ (priest or bishop) from the ‘layman'”, denounced for his part Father Francis Euvé.

That was “at the risk of forgetting that what unites them [cleric and layman], baptism, is more important than what distinguishes them”, Euvé said.

Versailles priest Dominique Barnérias added that “all the baptized are responsible for the life of the Church”.

The ecclesiologist – an expert in the theology of the Church – explained that the synodality the French Bishops are promoting “involves a habitual practice of consultation, deliberation and discernment, because the gifts of the Holy Spirit enlighten all members of the Church” without exception.

“What concerns everyone must be discussed by everyone”, Barnérias insisted.

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