RELIGION: French actor breaks his silence about child sex abuse in church

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News


PARIS (AP) — Laurent Martinez, eighteen, was sexually abused at the hands of a priest. He decided to tell his story in a play 40 years later to show the terrible consequences and to help victims rebuild their lives.

The play “Pardon?” was inspired by the life of the French actor and author. It describes how he felt ravaged inside and struggled to live a normal life.

Martinez’s play was shown to bishops earlier this year, ahead of the presentation of a groundbreaking report last week that estimated that about 330,000 children in France were sexually abused over the past 70 years within France’s Catholic Church.

Despite these shocking revelations Martinez expressed regret that there was “no — absolutely no — sense dread” in the church.

” They are clearly slammed with the numbers,” but “they just talk, talking, and talking,” he stated in an interview with The Associated Press.

For Martinez, now 52, memories of the abuse remain vivid.

The priest teaching catechism classes used pretexts to make Martinez, 8 years old, feel alone. He kissed and touched his genitals. Martinez recalls that the abuser invited Martinez to his apartment one day and made him engage in oral sexual sex. This would be considered rape under French law.

Martinez later informed his parents. They alerted their diocese and the priest was removed. Martinez believes that the priest has died. Martinez, like most victims of sex abuse within the church, didn’t seek legal recourse. It would have been too late due to statutes of limitations.

Martinez kept the abuse hidden for decades and only spoke about it to his wives.

” For me, sexual relationships were something I considered forbidden. It was very difficult for me to deal with it and I had to find very patient companions,” he stated.

The play shows how abuse impacted his sexual and emotional life as an adult. It made him aggressive or overreact to everyday concerns, but it also showed how it caused him to be extremely protective of children.

Martinez said he spent 40 years “wearing the mask of someone else” and “seeking to hide something that was like a cancer inside me.”

He felt the need to speak up a few years back because he had grown tired of carrying the trauma around.

” I thought: It’s time to do something. He said, “It’s impossible to continue as that.”

The play was first shown at the Avignon arts festival 2019. That is also when he first told his two sons, now 21 and 11, about the abuse. Martinez’s play has been in theatres throughout France, and a performance was also shown on France’s Catholic television channel KTO.

” I have been in pain so long that I now act my pain. He said, “I’m not in the business anymore.”

Martinez, who had lost his faith in the abuser, took a decisive new step. After much hesitation, he asked Eric de Moulins Beaufort, head of the Conference of Bishops of France if he could ask Martinez for forgiveness in the name of the abuser.

” He accepted and it was tremendously emotional for everybody that night,” Martinez recalls. “I offered my forgiveness to the priest who raped .”

After that, “I felt really free from the entire burden of anger and the desire for revenge.” He said that all the negative feelings that I had had have vanished because I had forgiven.

” “The trauma is slowly disappearing,” Martinez said. “What was more important was being able to forgive the priest

The actor had previously been in touch with Moulins Beaufort, who was supportive of the play and offered to present it to French bishops in the church’s effort to expose shameful secrets long hidden.

The offer is evidence that the Catholic hierarchy has come to the realization that listening to survivors is an essential part of its own process of addressing the problem and helping people heal.

Pope Francis realized this at a 2019 summit that he held with all of the world’s bishops conferences. The summit featured heartbreaking testimony from abuse victims and the long-lasting trauma it caused. Many bishops found it to be the first time that they had ever listened to someone who was a survivor. Often, the church treats victims as enemies or ignores them.

Among the many recommendations made in last week’s report on church abuse in France were measures to institutionalize ways for the church hierarchy to better assist and hear victims. The report estimates that at least 2,900-3,200 male clergy members were responsible for sexual abuse of children in France since the 1950s, and accuses the church of a systemic coverup.

Martinez is aware that his play helps others who have suffered similar experiences and hopes it encourages them all to seek help.

Someone “comes to see me, and says: ‘Thanks so much, because, as you know, it is also mine story. You are the first person that I tell .’”


” “The hardest thing is to say it one time,” Martinez said. Then, you can say it again and again. Then you’re free .”



Jeffrey Schaeffer, Paris, and Nicole Winfield, Rome.

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