The French Catholic Church is introducing digital ID cards with QR codes for its bishops, priests, and deacons to combat abuse.
The QR codes can be scanned to reveal color-coded background information about the clergy member’s ability to conduct religious services, like celebrate Mass or hear Confession, according to French news outlet France 24.
The initiative replaces the old “celebret” system, a paper document that was considered vulnerable to forgery and difficult to keep updated. The digitized system aims to be more secure, efficient, and transparent.
This decision has sparked controversy, with critics claiming that the move is superficial and doesn’t address the fundamental problems within the Church. Privacy concerns have also been raised as the cards could potentially include information about an individual’s convictions. Victims’ advocacy groups have criticized the initiative, arguing that it fails to address the systemic changes recommended by the 2021 Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (Ciase) report.
The Church plans to distribute these digital ID cards to all 18,000 priests and deacons across France by the end of the year. All data related to the clergy will be updated annually, with immediate updates for any canonical sanctions.
Despite the backlash, the French Catholic Church argues that this digital ID initiative is one step of many being taken to address the problem. The Church maintains its commitment to supporting victims and creating a culture of transparency, and insists that these measures are critical steps toward improving accountability and trust within the institution.