The Catholic priest child abuse scandal arrives in French courts.
A French Catholic cardinal is in court for covering up a priest’s sex abuse of children in France. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, is the highest Catholic official in France to be arraigned for sexual abuse in the church. Arraigned with five other church officials, Barbarin is facing charges for covering up the sexual child abuse of one of the priests in his diocese.
The 68-year-old archbishop reportedly sat pensively throughout the court session. He was once thought of as a suitable candidate for the papacy. He is accused of failing to act when a priest in his diocese sexually molested nine children.
Vatican Invokes Diplomatic Immunity for Official Implicated in French Case
Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with senior bishops in Rome in February. The meeting is to discuss how the church can protect children against sexual predators in the clergy. Sexual abuse of children and male seminarians is rocking the Catholic Church on a global basis, and the pope faces a hard time containing the problem.
Rome’s diplomat to France, Cardinal Luis Ladaria is also facing charges in the French case. He is the Vatican’s top official handling sex abuse cases in the Church. Media reports suggest he did not appear in court to defend himself because the Vatican invoked his diplomatic immunity.
The defendants in the French case are accused of looking the other way when the Rev. Bernard Preynat molested male Boy Scouts for many years from the 1980s to the 1990s. Cardinal Barbarin may go to prison for three years or pay up to $51,000 in fines for not reporting Preynat until 2007. Preynat will be tried in court before the end of this year. And Barbarin said he managed the incident the right way.
Pope Francis Once Defended Barbarin as Efficient at Dealing with Sex Abuses in French Church
He revealed he became aware of Preynat’s sex abuse in 2007 and relieved him of his priestly duties in 2015, allowing the priest to retire.
François Devaux, was reported to be one of the people Preynat abused. He established the support group La Parole Libérée to help other victims expose errant priests as well as to help the victims to heal. Devaux said Preynat left him scarred forever, and exposing him for who he was is the best way to heal completely from the abuse.
Prosecutors dropped all charges against Barbarin in 2016. This was largely because the evidence against him was insufficient, and the statute of limitations had passed. But nine complainants successfully reopened the case, and Barbarin was arraigned again.
Pope Francis had once defended Barbarin as efficient in managing sex abuse incidents in France, but his recent arraignment will further blight the Church and cast the pope in a bad light.