Church in France Outlines Strategy to Fight Pedophilia

Bishops' Document Offers Guidelines to Educators

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PARIS, AUG. 28, 2002 ( Referring to recent reports of sex-abuse scandals in France, Bishop Jacques David of Evreux says the Church "intends to combat pedophilia assiduously."

A national survey carried out by the bishops' conference shows that 118 priests were under investigation for pedophilia. Thirty were convicted and 11 were incarcerated.

The French bishops have responded with a dossier entitled "Combating Pedophilia: Points of Reference for Educators."

Written under the direction of Bishop David, it gathers the reflections of theologians, specialists in pastoral and youth morality, formators in seminaries, jurists, psychoanalysts, sexologists and journalists, to "contribute to the revelation and prevention of similar acts, while preserving the climate of trust indispensable for all life in society."

Bishop David told ZENIT the Church intends "to collaborate with the work already begun by various administrations -- Justice, Education, Family -- and numerous associations."

Set to be distributed to diocesan structures, Catholic institutes and lay movements, the dossier by its own words aims to provide "simple information on the very complex reality of 'pedophilia.'"

"The education of children and youth is based on trust," writes Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, president of the French episcopal conference, in the introduction. "This trust is destroyed by acts of pedophilia, that profoundly unbalance the victims and, in fact, the whole of our society."

In the majority of cases, the boys who are victims of sexual abuse know their aggressor well, insofar as the latter normally forms part of the family and educational environment, the text states.

The text focuses on "warning signs" in those who deal with children. Among the signs: the absence of teamwork, habitual silence on certain topics, and always being surrounded by the same boys.