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Welcoming the CIASE report

16 December 2021 - A few days ago, La Ferme hosted the second of a series of sessions co-organised with the Diocese of Beauvais, around the reception of the CIASE report (a report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France written by an Independent Commission). We put four questions to Geneviève, who has been helping to run these sessions for priests, religious men and women, and lay people working for the Diocese.

La Ferme: who are you, Geneviève?
Geneviève: Today I am here, at La Ferme, ‘wearing three hats’: I am a member of the Board of La Ferme, a member of the spiritual life team of the Beauvais Diocese, and finally, as a victim of sexual violence in my childhood: I am one of the people who gave a talk about my experience at Lourdes in 2018 and I later worked with the French Bishops' Conference, on sexual violence against young people in the Church in France.

La Ferme: can you tell us about the session that is taking place?
Geneviève: This is a series of sessions jointly run by La Ferme, the Diocese and the victims. Each session is structured around the contributions of five main speakers: two "victim-witnesses", a psychoanalyst, a theologian, and a member of CIASE. Of course, the participants themselves also make a vital contribution to the content of the session: priests, women and men in religious orders, and lay people serving the Diocese. The session lasts two days: the first day is devoted to "Naming the wrong", with the victims’ stories at the centre. The second day is devoted to "The Future" and, again, the starting point is the contribution of the victims. The aim of the sessions is to help the participants, who are all people involved in the Church, to listen to the victims, so as to better understand the trauma and consequences of coercive control and sexual violence. The second aim is for us to go through this difficult chapter in the history of the Church, both individually and as a community.

La Ferme: why run these sessions at La Ferme ?
Geneviève: With its involvement in the "Walking through our History" sessions, organised to help L'Arche members to face up to and integrate the revelations about Jean Vanier, La Ferme has experience of this type of session. Moreover, with its warm and family-like ambiance, La Ferme offers a setting well suited to this kind of experience. Of course, given the dark side of La Ferme’s own past, to begin with, some participants of course reacted to it being chosen as the venue. But by the end, each one went away renewed, glad to have experienced these sessions at the heart of a welcoming community.

La Ferme: what were the fruits you saw after the first sessions?
Geneviève: The first participants spoke of "a moment of authentic synodality", "an experience of freedom to speak and to exchange at depth, which one hasn’t often come across in the Church up to now ". It was a fairly unique experience, which raised awareness of the gravity of sexual violence against minors and vulnerable people, and also of how the Church, was partly to blame for the way it functioned as an institution. This was painful both for individuals and the group as a whole. Each person was encouraged to take a close look at their approach to the Church and to project themselves into the Church of the future: to choose humility, to make the human person their priority, especially those who are weak, to choose living "with" as the first step, before wanting to do something "for". In this respect, running these sessions in L'Arche is, in my view, a particularly symbolic and hopeful choice.