The 25 bishops who covered up sex crimes

The 25 bishops who covered up sex crimes

Organisation: Mediapart (France)

Publication Date: 03/24/2017

Size of team/newsroom:small

Description

For a year, we have investigated how the French Catholic Church has protected priests who were accused of sexual abuse, and paedophile crime in particular. Starting from the Philippe Barbarin scandal, a French cardinal accused of covering up several cases of sexual abuse, we decided to extend our researches to other dioceses, where we unveiled similar patterns. Eventually we have revealed how 25 bishops, five of whom are still holding office, were directly involved in protecting suspected priests. There were 32 alleged sexual abusers who are identified as having been protected by the Church, and whose alleged victims total 339. We found out that the hiding pattern often involved moving the alleged perpetrators to remote geographical locations both in France and abroad. This is what we called the "Mechanism of Silence". This investigation underlines how widespread this mechanism is across the Church.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

The whole investigation is innovative in that it is the first time journalists publish such figures concerning sexual abuse within the French Catholic Church. The media have seen our work as a "French Spotlight". It had a significant and hopefully long-lasting impact in terms of raising awareness of these practices among the general public and inside the Church itself. Measures have been taken in some dioceses as a result of our investigation. The most striking aspect of our findings is that the bishops were behind this mechanism of silence, as can be seen in our "galaxy of silence" interactive map. Then, we showed it was everywhere in France, and not only in Lyon where the scandal started one year ago. Thanks to this datawork, we have been able to rebut the argument raised by the Church, i.e. that sexual abuses covered up by Church are a thing of the past. On the contrary, we found that these practices are still current. We found that half of the criminal priests we identified have been covered up after 2000.

Technologies used for this project:

Excel, D3, Jquery, Highcharts, PROJ.4, DataTables
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