French Catholic clergy could have abused at least 10,000 minors and other vulnerable people since 1950, according to an independent investigation set up by the Church in France.
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) “estimates that the number of victims could reach ‘at least ten thousand,’” it said in a statement released on Monday.
The commission said it had so far received 6,500 testimonies, which concern at least 3,000 different victims.
Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the CIASE, said it is not known at this stage what percentage of all victims have testified to the commission.
“It is very possible that the victims will reach at least the number of 10,000. The work in progress, and in particular the survey of the general population, will make it possible to specify the number,” he said.
The commission was set up in 2018 by the French Catholic Church hierarchy and religious institutes after abuse scandals came to light.
It is financed by the French Catholic Bishops conference, but members are not paid and do not receive instructions from the Church. The archives of dioceses and religious institutions are accessible to the commission.
It is scheduled to deliver a final report in the fall of 2021.
In May 2019, Pope Francis issued global rules for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, mandating for the first time that all dioceses set up systems for reporting abuse and cover-ups.
The rules require all Catholic dioceses around the world to have a “public and accessible” system in place.
The norms cover internal Catholic Church procedure, not the issue of reporting abuse or cover-up to civil authorities, and must be followed by all dioceses.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Vatican’s top investigator of sex abuse, told CNN at the time that the new rules added a layer of accountability for church leaders.
“First of all that leadership is not above the law,” Scicluna said, “and second that leadership needs to know, all of us in leadership we need to know, that if the people love the Church they’re going to denounce us when we do something wrong.”
CNN’s Delia Gallagher, Hada Messia and Jack Guy contributed to this report.