From sexual abuse scandals to incivilities through assaults and vandalism, some facts that occurred in 2022 show that the Catholic Church faced a difficult year in France.
Newsroom (06/01/2023 7:48 PM, Gaudium Press) The year 2022 was a difficult year for the Catholic Church in France. Already in 2021, the report on sexual abuse committed by clerics (the Sauvé Report) estimated the number of victims at 216,000 since 1950. The news caused a shock in society.
Sexual assault scandals
The French Bishops, who were responsible for requesting the report, pledged to fight against abuse within the Church. However, on October 14, 2022, it was revealed that Bishop Michel Santier was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2021 for spiritual abuse for sexual purposes in the 1990s.
On November 7, it was the revelation of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard that shocked the Church. The Cardinal confessed that he had acted in a reprehensible manner towards a 14-year-old teenager.
A few days later, on November 16, the Archbishop Emeritus of Strasbourg, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet, revealed that he committed inappropriate gestures toward a woman when he was still a Franciscan in the 1980s. Ecclesiastical and civil proceedings are underway to examine the cases of the three French prelates.
In addition to these and other scandals that have caused the French and world press to ink, the Catholic Church has suffered from attacks on sacred buildings throughout 2022, as well as desecration, theft, and other damage.
Attacks and vandalism in churches
2022 began with a series of vandalism and degradation attacks committed against Parisian churches between January 6 and 10. A man destroyed with an iron bar some images in the basilica of Saint-Denis in the Paris region. The church of Saint-Germain was desecrated and hosts were stolen, and two other churches were looted and desecrated around the same time: the church of Saint-Pierre in Bondy and the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in Romainville.
Already in May, on May 1st, a parish in Anger was attacked and graffitied by union members who were demonstrating near the church.
On July 26, a man destroyed several images in the cathedral of Our Lady of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The criminal remained inside the church and with the doors of the church closed, he destroyed numerous images and furniture inside. The damage caused is estimated at thousands of euros.
In October, a chapel in Brittany was vandalized with axe blows, even the tabernacle of the chapel was damaged. In the town of Nantes, the parish priest of Our Lady reported that the church has been the victim of incivilities throughout 2022; people take advantage of the church space to drink and smoke.
On the eve of Christmas, the church of St. Anne of Arvor was broken into and vandalized. The nativity scene that was at the foot of the altar was destroyed, as well as an image of Our Lady and another of Saint Theresa.
Theft of Relics
In 2022, some relics were also stolen on French territory. On the night of January 8, 2022, a relic of Saint John Paul II was stolen from the famous Sacred Heart shrine in Paray-Le-Monial. To this day the relic has not been found.
The reliquary of the Precious Blood of Jesus was stolen from the Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Fécamp on the first day of June. The reliquary was found in Holland a few weeks later.
Desecrations happened throughout the year. In January, on the 16th, a man desecrated the Eucharist by crushing a host in his hands during communion in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Paris. The day before the event, the church had been broken into by thieves.
In February, it was the turn of a TikTok influencer to make controversy. Benjamin Ledig made a video inside a church in which he danced irreverently and dressed indecorously inside the church in St. Paul St. Louis. He was convicted by the Paris judiciary court on April 22.
Despite TikTok’s conviction, some court decisions show the advance of anti-clericalism. At the request of an atheist association, an image of Our Lady that was in the public square of La Flotte-en-Ré was removed after a court decision in March.
The French courts also ruled for the removal of the image of St. Michael in Sables d’Olonne. The claim is that the image infringes the country’s secularity law.
On October 13, the European Court cleared the feminist, a member of Femen, who simulated the “abortion of Christ” in the Madeleine church in Paris. In 2013, a half-naked woman stormed the church carrying a crown of thorns on her head and a blue veil, in addition, she had two pieces of flesh to symbolize aborted Jesus. The French courts condemned her several times. However, the European Court was in favor of the feminist, explaining that the woman was demonstrating for the right to abortion and that the decisions of the French courts “are not necessary for a democratic society.
Attacks and physical assaults
Assaults and attempted attacks also took place in 2022. On January 25, a man dressed in a djellaba, holding a Koran and a knife in his hands was looking for the parish priest of the basilica of Our Lady of the Trinity. The man’s suspicious behavior caught the attention of the police. He was detained and committed to a psychiatric institution.
In April, a man broke into Mass in Toulouse Cathedral carrying a package containing explosives, but no detonation system.
Another attack with a knife happened on April 24 in the church of St. Peter d’Arène in Nice. A man armed with a knife wounded a priest and an elderly nun before being detained by police.
In September, two young Catholics, a 17-year-old boy, and a 15-year-old teenager were insulted and assaulted in Rambouillet, 2022. (FM)
Compiled by Dominic Joseph