The French Catholic Church is facing new accusations of a sexual abuse scandal within Paris’s Foreign Missions Society, an organisation dedicated to spreading Christianity overseas.
As a criminal investigation has been opened into accusations against three clergymen from the group, a FRANCE 24 investigation by journalists Karina Chabour and Julie Dungelhoeff sheds light on the allegations against the society.
Another scandal that the Catholic Church could have done without: three criminal inquiries have opened in France into two priests and one bishop accused of sexual abuse.
The three men accused are all from the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), an organisation founded in France in the 17th century to convert overseas populations in Asia to Catholicism. Today it claims to have 150 priests based in 14 countries across India, China, Japan and Southeast Asia.
Before the criminal inquiries were announced a FRANCE 24 team (in partnership with the Radio France investigations unit) was investigating the apostolic society to shed light on the inner workings of the prestigious institution suspected of covering up the acts of sexual predators working in its midst.
The three criminal investigations now open in France concern two former missionaries in Japan, Father Philippe and Father Aymeric, as well as the bishop of La Rochelle, Georges Colomb, who is also the former superior general of the MEP.
They are respectively accused of rape, aggravated rape and attempted rape. They have not yet been charged with any crimes, and so are presumed innocent. Father Philippe and Georges Colomb deny the accusations against them. Father Aymeric did not respond to a request for comment made by FRANCE 24.
In a conversation recorded with Father Philippe’s permission by his accuser, the priest spoke of a “system” which he was introduced into when he was a seminarian with the MEP. He said his superiors initiated him into an active sex culture in which they held influence over him.
“I was a good new recruit… as a sexual object,” he said in tears.
The accusations against Father Philippe, Father Aymeric and Bishop Georges Colomb have all been made by alleged victims in France.
Yet accusations of sexual abuse against MEP members expand well beyond French borders.
FRANCE 24’s investigative team travelled to northwest Thailand, home to the Karen ethnic minority group, where it collected multiple witness statements accusing two priests of sexual aggression towards young children.