Éric Zemmour, the far-right writer and TV star who has been rising in the polls before the presidential elections next year, has long attacked Islam and gained popularity on the right by styling himself as a great defender of France’s Catholic culture — even though he is Jewish and his parents settled in France from Algeria.

Isabelle de Gaulmyn, a top editor at La Croix, France’s leading Catholic newspaper, said that the church’s decline might have made it reluctant to tackle the issue of sexual abuse head-on, for fear of adding to its existing challenges.

“The evolution was very brutal,” she said of the church’s drop in power. “So there is a bit of a feeling that it is a fortress under siege.”

That feeling is also fueled by a sense that the church is poor. Unlike its counterpart in Germany, which is supported by a government-collected tax, the French church receives no steady stream of subsidies and must rely almost exclusively on donations from worshipers, although, under France’s complex secularism law, the state pays for the upkeep of almost all church buildings

Victims of sexual abuse, who expect compensation from the church, are quick to point out that some dioceses have sizable real estate assets.

Olivier Savignac, who was sexually abused by a priest as a minor and who founded an association for victims, said that they wanted compensation to recoup years of medical bills, “not a small symbolic amount” covered by churchgoer donations.

“We want the dioceses to pay out of their pockets,” he added.

Many say the report has put the Church at a turning point — reform, or fade further.

“It’s now,” Father Stalla-Bourdillon said. “Not later.”

Léontine Gallois contributed reporting.

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German Catholic Priests Defy Rome to Offer Blessings to Gay Couples

During the ceremony, Father Mönkebüscher walked around the nave, approaching couples who sat in pairs, socially distanced and masked. They rose as he placed a hand on their shoulders and spoke a blessing as they bowed their heads. After one lesbian couple had received their blessing, they dropped their masks and shared a kiss, wiping away tears.

Not everyone has been receptive of the initiative. One parish in Bavaria received threats from members of an arch-conservative Roman Catholic group and had to call the police to ensure the safety of participants at their ceremony.

The initiative is the latest strain between the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in Germany. Many parishioners in Germany have left the church, including those frustrated with what they see as an outdated approach to sexual morality and a failure to punish priests accused of abusing children.

According to official statistics, 272,771 people formally quit the Church in 2019, a record number that helped to galvanize efforts among the bishops to discuss with the church a series of issues they believe were contributing to the loss of members. Among them were the role of women in the church, its teachings on sexual morality, priestly celibacy and clerical power structures.

In 2019, they began a series of talks on these topics, discussions of which would be off-limits for the church in many other countries. The talks were to take place among the faithful and church leaders over the course of two years but were extended because of restrictions on gatherings that were introduced last year at the outbreak of the pandemic. They are now to continue into February 2022.

Among those leaving the Church in Germany are many same-sex couples, who are tired of feeling they are not accepted for who they are, said the Rev. Reinhard Kleinewiese, who held a blessing at the Church of St. Mary in the western town of Ahlen on Sunday evening. Ten couples attend, all of them heterosexuals.

“We can’t ignore the fact that a lot of homosexual couples have already left the church. There are many who don’t come anymore,” Father Kleinewiese said. “Nevertheless, it is good and important for this situation and beyond that we make clear that we are not in agreement with Rome on certain issues and prohibitions.”

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Siena, Italy.

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German Authorities Break Up International Child Sex Abuse Site

BERLIN — German prosecutors have broken up an online platform for sharing images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children, mostly boys, that had an international following of more than 400,000 members, they said on Monday.

The site, named “Boystown,” had been around since at least June 2019 and included forums where members from around the globe exchanged images and videos showing children, including toddlers, being sexually abused. In addition to the forums, the site had chat rooms where members could connect with one another in various languages.

German federal prosecutors described it as “one of the largest child pornography sites operating on the dark net” in a statement they released on Monday announcing the arrest in mid-April of three German men who managed the site and a fourth who had posted thousands of images to it.

“This investigative success has a clear message: Those who prey on the weakest are not safe anywhere,” Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said on Monday. “We are holding perpetrators accountable and doing what is humanly possible to protect children from such repugnant crimes.”

several sophisticated networks, tens of thousands of new cases of abuse are reported to the authorities each year. Parliament passed a law that would toughen sentences against those convicted of sexual exploitation or abuse of children last week.

The accused administrators of the “Boystown” site, aged 40 and 49, were arrested after raids in their homes in Paderborn and Munich, the prosecutors said. A third man accused of being an administrator, 58, was living in the Concepción region of Paraguay, where he has been detained awaiting extradition.

was handed a 10-month suspended sentence after he was convicted of 26 counts of possession and sharing photos of girls younger than 10 being severely sexually abused. Mr. Metzelder confessed to some of the charges and apologized to the victims, which the judge said she took into consideration in lessening his punishment.

But many Germans, including some of Mr. Metzelder’s former teammates, protested that the punishment was too lenient.

“I don’t see how that is supposed to act as a deterrent,” Lukas Podolski, who was a member of the 2014 team that won the soccer World Cup for Germany, told the Bild newspaper. “Whoever commits sins against children must be punished with the full weight of the law.”

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Girl’s Rape in Venezuela Becomes a Rallying Cry for Abortion Activists

The assault of a 13-year-old girl in Venezuela and the arrest of her mother and a teacher who helped her end the pregnancy have forced a national debate about legalizing abortion.

MÉRIDA, Venezuela — She wore a ponytail and a red T-shirt, the words “Glitter Girl” sketched across the front.

Gripping her mother’s hand, she spoke softly, describing how she had been forced out of school by Venezuela’s economic crisis, and then was raped at least six times by a neighborhood predator who threatened to harm her family if she spoke out. At just 13, she became pregnant.

With her mother, she sought out a doctor, who told her the pregnancy endangered her life, and then a former teacher, who provided pills that induced an abortion.

But ending a pregnancy is illegal in almost all circumstances in Venezuela. And now the girl was speaking up, she said, because her teacher, Vannesa Rosales, was in jail, facing more than a decade in prison for helping her end a pregnancy — while the accused rapist remained free.

local and international press earlier this year, has become a point of outrage for women’s rights activists, who say it demonstrates the way the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has stripped away protections for young women and girls. (The Times is not identifying the girl because she is a minor.)

The country’s decline, presided over by President Nicolás Maduro and exacerbated by U.S. sanctions, has crippled schools, shuttered community programs, sent millions of parents abroad and eviscerated the justice system, leaving many vulnerable to violent actors who flourish amid impunity.

But the girl’s assault, and Ms. Rosales’s arrest, has also become a rallying cry for activists who say it is time for Venezuela to have a serious discussion about further legalizing abortion, an issue, they argue, that is now more important than ever.

at least open to a discussion on the issue.

The country’s penal code, which dates back to the 1800s, criminalizes abortion in nearly all cases, with punishments for pregnant women lasting six months to two years and one to nearly three years for abortion providers.

An exception allows doctors to perform abortions “to save the life” of a pregnant woman.

But to obtain a legal abortion, a girl or woman must first find a doctor who will diagnose her with a specific life-threatening condition, said Dr. Jairo Fuenmayor, president of the country’s gynecologic society, and then have her case reviewed before a hospital ethics board.

The process is “cumbersome,” he said, and there are “very few” women who go through it.

The 13-year-old girl may have been eligible for a rare legal abortion, but the process is so infrequently publicized, and there so few doctors who will grant one, that neither she nor her mother knew they could seek one out.

Some women believe that simply raising the issue with a doctor will land them in the hands of the police.

legalize abortion, elevating a discussion about the issue in a region that has long had some of the strictest abortion laws in the world.

“We can ride the wave of the triumph in Argentina,” said Gioconda Espina, a longtime Venezuelan women’s rights activist.

Legalization, however, is far from imminent.

Venezuela is a deeply Catholic country, and many on both sides of the political aisle reject the idea of ending a pregnancy, even amid a crisis.

“Abortion is something that people naturally or instinctively reject,” said Christine de Vollmer, a Venezuelan activist who opposes the procedure. Venezuela may be “chaotic,” she said, but, “I don’t think the idea will catch.”

Hugo Chávez, who began the country’s socialist-inspired revolution in 1999, never took a strong position on abortion, but often asked feminist activists — many of whom supported abortion rights and his cause — to put his larger political movement ahead of their own demands.

sometimes disappeared for months or years in the Venezuelan justice system, and she worried that her partner was about to do the same.

Ms. Rosales’s lawyer, Venus Faddoul, exited the courthouse. No hearing today, she said. And it would probably be weeks before a judge took up the case.

Ms. Escobar collapsed, consumed by anger and anxiety. Soon, she was shaking violently and struggling to breathe.

“We are powerless,” she cried.

internet outrage that Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, took to Twitter to clarify that he had issued an arrest warrant for the accused rapist.

The authorities in Mérida soon released Ms. Rosales to await trial under house arrest.

Abortion rights activists last month met for hours with Mr. Rodríguez, the National Assembly president, where they proposed a change to the penal code, among other ideas.

The country’s influential association of Catholic bishops responded with a letter imploring the country to stick with the status quo.

Powerful international organizations, the association said, were trying to legalize abortion “by appealing to fake concepts of modernity, inventing ‘new human rights,’ and justifying policies that go against God’s designs.”

Ms. Rosales remains in legal limbo. Six months after her arrest, she has yet to have her first day in court. The accused person is still free.

“This goes beyond being a negligent state,” she said. “This is a state that is actively working against women.”

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Adult Sex With Minors to Be Considered Rape Under Landmark French Bill

PARIS — The French National Assembly adopted legislation late Monday that characterizes sex between adults and minors under 15 as rape, a move made after years of debate and rounds of sexual abuse scandals gradually pushed lawmakers to bring the French criminal code closer to that of most other Western countries.

“Children are off-limits,” France’s justice minister, Eric Dupont-Moretti, told the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, ahead of the vote on Monday. Under the bill, a sexual relationship with a minor under 15 would be punishable by 20 years in prison, unless the age gap between the consensual partners were small.

The bill, which also includes a provision that would make incest a specific crime, will go to the Senate this month and is expected to get final approval in April. The incest ban would also apply to sexual relationships between children under 18 and their step parents.

That lawmakers agreed on setting an age of consent only three years after having voted against a similar law largely reflects the impact of a series of recent sexual abuse scandals.

fall from grace of a writer who for decades openly engaged in and promoted pedophilia with the support of powerful friends and amid accusations of incest against a prominent French intellectual that surfaced in January.

Fresh allegations of sexual abuse against powerful figures in politics, the arts and the media that fueled new #MeToo movements have also increased pressure on the French government to take action.

“There has been a real shift in the public opinion and an awareness that there is a problem with these sexual violence cases,” said Pierre Verdrager, a sociologist who has studied pedophilia, adding that France had become highly aware of these issues.

Feminists have also contributed to this change in attitude, Mr. Verdrager said, and raised public awareness by speaking out against sexual abuse in the arts and papering Paris with posters denouncing domestic and sexual violence.

French law already prohibited sex between an adult and a minor under the age of 15, but it was not automatically considered rape. Further circumstances, such as the use of coercion, threats, or violence, were necessary to characterize such sexual relationships as rape.

toughened laws against sex crimes and extended the statute of limitations for rape against a minor to 30 years from 20 years, but lawmakers had stopped short of setting an age of sexual consent, citing legal complications.

Some lawmakers, following warnings from France’s Constitutional Council, were worried that setting an age of consent would automatically criminalize sexual relationships between a minor under the age of consent and a person only a few years older. The council reviews legislation to ensure it complies with the French Constitution.

In response, the new bill includes a “Romeo and Juliet” clause that would allow for sexual relationships between a children under 15 and an adult up to five years older. This clause would not apply in rape or assault cases.

“I do not want to put a kid aged 18 on trial because he had a consenting relationship with a girl of 14-and-a-half,” Mr. Dupond-Moretti said.

Alexandra Louis, a French lawmaker supporting the bill, said that the provisions that had been added to bill, such as the Romeo and Juliet clause, gave her hope that the measure would be approved by the Constitutional Council.

Some 300 amendments were discussed but the bill eventually passed unanimously and in one day. Ms. Louis said that the bill had “reached a consensus” and marked “a historic breakthrough.”

The legislation also extends beyond 30 years the statute of limitations for rape of a minor in cases where the adult has raped others, and introduces jail sentences of 10 years and a fine of 150,000 euros, or about $180,000, for anyone convicted of inciting children under the age of 15, via the internet, to commit sexual acts.

“Our task is huge,” Mr. Dupont-Moretti said. “It’s about changing the law to finally, completely and totally protect our children.”

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David Newhouse, 65, Dies; His Paper Broke the Sandusky Story

David Newhouse, who as the editor guided The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., to a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story that led to the conviction of the Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing young boys, and to the firing of Joe Paterno, the school’s once-beloved head football coach, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Hanover, N.H. He was 65.

The cause was complications of leukemia, his brother Mark said.

Mr. Newhouse, a member of the powerful publishing family whose best-known media holding is its Condé Nast magazine division, led a modest central Pennsylvania outpost in the Newhouse empire.

But his small city daily gained national attention in March 2011 when a staff writer, Sara Ganim, reported that Mr. Sandusky was being investigated by a grand jury for allegations that he had “indecently assaulted a teenage boy.” The scandal mushroomed that November, when Mr. Sandusky was indicted on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.

That first article and nine others were cited by the Pulitzer board in 2012 for “courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State sex scandal.”

Peter Shellem that led to the release of five wrongly convicted prisoners.

In November 2011, Mr. Newhouse wrote a column for his newspaper that criticized The New York Times for its handling of an article about one of Mr. Sandusky’s victims. To protect his identity, the individual was referred to as Victim 1 in The Times, as he was in the indictment. But Mr. Newhouse said the article “was so detailed that, even though they do not name him, Googling certain information in the profile results in the young man’s name within seconds.”

Editors at The Times defended the article, but Arthur S. Brisbane, The Times’s public editor at the time, disagreed. Though he acknowledged that certain details about Victim 1 gave readers “a deeper understanding of the boy,” he asked: “Was that reason enough to include them and put his privacy at risk? I don’t believe so.”

About a month after the Pulitzer was awarded, Mr. Newhouse left The Patriot-News to become the editor at large of the family-owned Advance Local, helping to develop websites as the family’s newspapers evolved into digital operations.

His father, Norman, was the editor of the Queens-based Long Island Press and later oversaw The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and other Southern papers owned by his family. Norman was a brother of Samuel I. Newhouse, who started the family in the publishing business. David’s mother, Alice (Gross) Newhouse, was a homemaker.

“We all idolized our father,” Mark Newhouse, the executive vice president of newspapers for his family’s Advance Publications, said in a phone interview. “We grew up thinking that being a newspaperman was the best thing you could aspire to be.”

David Newhouse originally took a different path, however. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1977 and earned a master’s in film production from Boston University in 1980 and a second master’s, in education, from Tufts University three years later

argued strongly for the resignations of Mr. Paterno and Graham Spanier, Penn State’s president, for doing too little to stop Mr. Sandusky. The editorial took up the entire front page.

Penn State fired both men on Nov. 9, 2011, the day after the editorial ran.

Mr. Sandusky is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years. Mr. Paterno died in 2012.

In addition to his brother Mark, Mr. Newhouse is survived by his wife, Alice Stewart; his daughters, Lily, Hope, Magdalena and Macrina Newhouse; two other brothers, Peter and Jonathan; a sister, Robyn Newhouse; and three grandchildren. His marriage to Katharine Call ended in divorce.

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