French bishops say the Catholic Church bears an "institutional responsibility" for the sexual abuse of hundreds of thousands of children over the past decades.
At an annual meeting of their conference, the bishops also said that the church was guilty of allowing the abuses to become "systemic," Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the president of the bishops conference, said on Friday.
"This responsibility implies a duty to provide justice and reparation," De Moulins-Beaufort said following a vote by the bishops.
A report released last month estimated that 330,000 children had been victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church over the past seven decades. An independent commission investigating sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France published the 2,500-page report on October 5, saying that the "vast majority" of victims had been pre-adolescent boys. The commission called the abuses a "massive phenomenon," accusing the church of having turned a blind eye for too long.
Besides recommending that the church accept responsibility for the abuses, it also called for calculating financial compensation for each individual case based on the severity of the abuses suffered. It stressed that the money should be paid by the attackers or the church, recommending against any call for donations from the Catholic faithful.
The French bishops' annual meeting, which began on Tuesday, was not entirely dedicated to discussing the findings of the October report. Many victims of abuse had declined an invitation to attend the meeting, decrying the decision to deal with the sexual abuse scandal as just one of several issues on the bishops conference's agenda.
Over the past years, similar patterns of abuse have emerged at Catholic churches around the globe, undermining its moral authority on its followers.