French Catholic priests will be forced to wear scannable QR code so the public can identify if they are a sex offender
- Priests in France will be required to carry traffic-light coded identification cards
- The cards signal whether the holder has been stripped of their clerical status
Catholic priests in France will be made to wear traffic-light coded identification tags to allow the public to check whether they may have faced sexual abuse charges.
Cards will feature a QR code, scannable by mobile phone, that will flag a red, orange or green light depending on whether its holder had been stripped of clerical status.
The scheme, announced by the Bishop’s Conference of France on Wednesday, will allow easier identification of priests able to lead mass and hear confessions.
But it also aims at protecting worshippers from sexual abuse, an issue made more pressing by revelations in November that 11 former or serving French bishops had been accused of abuse or had failed to report cases.
French bishop Alexandre Joly shows his ID card during a press conference as part of the Conference des Eveques de France (French Bishops’ Conference) in Paris, on May 10, 2023
Members of the public will see either a red light, an amber light or a green light upon scanning one of the new cards.
Red lights indicate that a priest has been stripped of their status and cannot perform various clerical duties.
The database will be updated as standard once a year, or immediately in cases of serious misconduct.
Orange lights will indicate that a priest has limited powers due to experience or sanctions.
Green lights will indicate that a priest is authorised to perform a full range of sacraments.
The system is designed to support existing paper documents used by the Catholic church in France as it tries to clamp down on sex abuse in its ranks.
In November 2022, 11 bishops were accused either of sexual abuse or cover-up within the French Catholic Church.
Among those facing either criminal or canonical prosecution was the former Archbishop of Bordeaux, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard.
He admitted to having ‘behaved in a reprehensible manner towards a 14-year-old girl’ when he was a priest, more than three decades ago.
On the back of a two-and-a-half year investigation, an independent report published 4 October 2021 detailed an extensive history of abuse within the church, estimating 330,000 had been victims of abuse over a period of 70 years.
Under the new system, the public will be able to scan the QR code to verify a priest’s status
The scheme was voted for by Bishops in November 2021 in light of the findings of the damning Sauvé Report, named after its lead.
Some 17,000 will be issued the identity documents called ‘Celebrets’ through the scheme.
Despite the efforts, not all are swayed. Olivier Savignac, co-founder of Parler et revivre, an organisation collecting the words of victims, said: ‘The Catholic Church in France is ageing. There are many people of a certain age who oversee religious ceremonies.
‘Do they have the skills and training? Because you have to flash a QR code – it’s quite technical.’
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