In France, the highest-profile Catholic to stand trial for claims related to child sex abuse could face a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of just over $50,000.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, stands accused of covering up crimes perpetrated by a priest named Bernard Preynat. Barbarin has officially denied any wrongdoing.
The highest-profile Catholic cleric to be embroiled in a paedophile scandal in France has denied in court that he failed to report a priest who abused Scouts in the 1980s and 90s.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, one of the most prominent Catholic figures in France, is accused with five others of helping to cover up abuse.
At the opening of a trial on Monday, Barbarin appeared to pray as the judge read the accusations against the defendants.
“I never sought to hide, much less cover up these horrible acts,” Barbarin told the court in Lyon, reading from a written statement.
The trial comes at an interesting time in the Catholic Church’s long history. Now more than ever people are reporting abuses by Catholic priests and bringing forth charges. In fact, just last week, the Vatican confirmed an Argentinian bishop was under preliminary investigation for alleged abuse.
But for Lyon and Barbarin, the reckoning began in 2015.
The scandal in Lyon emerged in 2015 when a former Scout went public with allegations that a local priest, Bernard Preynat, had abused him as a child 25 years earlier.
François Devaux, who has since formed a victims’ group, also filed a complaint against Barbarin, the priest’s superior, alleging he had known about the abuse and covered it up.
After six months of investigation and 10 hours of interviews with Barbarin, investigators dropped the case in 2016, saying the allegations against him were either too old or impossible to prove.
But a group of victims succeeded in having the case reopened which led to Barbarin and others, including the archbishop of Auch and the bishop of Nevers in France, having to stand trial.
The victims’ group, La Parole Libérée (Freed Speech), began with a handful of people but soon received calls and testimony from 85 people claiming to have been victims of Preynat in Lyon.
Only time and more evidence will tell us if Barbarin is guilty, but it’s about time these types of cases are heard instead of swept under the rug.
(Thanks to Bob for the link)