Child crime in the Church: The “shock” revelations of a French cardinal


“35 years ago, when I was parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a 14-year-old girl. My behavior necessarily caused serious and lasting consequences for this person.

On Monday, the French episcopate revealed that eleven former bishops had had to deal with civil justice or the justice of the Church for sexual "abuse" or "non-denunciation", including a former archbishop of Bordeaux.

" A shock " : It is with these words that, during a press briefing on the subject of sexual abuse and its management, the President of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) Eric de Moulins-Beaufort introduced the reading of a message sent by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard.

“35 years ago, when I was parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a 14-year-old girl. My behavior has necessarily caused serious and lasting consequences for this person,” the cardinal wrote. "I have decided to put myself at the disposal of justice both at the level of society and that of the Church", he added, affirming that he had asked "forgiveness" from this victim, still according to his remarks reported.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard is 78 years old. He is former bishop of Grenoble, former archbishop of Montpellier and archbishop emeritus of Bordeaux, twice president of the Conference of Bishops of France.

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort also detailed the case of other prelates who had to deal with justice. "Today there are six cases of (former, editor's note) bishops who have been implicated before the justice of our country or before canonical justice", he declared, stressing that these cases were "known " of the press.

The CEF then appoints the bishops concerned. In total, ten former bishops are therefore concerned: "eight currently implicated for abuse, including Bishop Ricard and Santier, and two implicated for non-denunciation (one was convicted in 2018 and one released in 2020)".

One of them, Pierre Pican, who died in 2018, was sentenced for non-denunciation. Added "now Bishop Ricard", said the president of the Conference of Bishops of France Eric de Moulins-Beaufort. As well as Bishop Michel Santier, sanctioned in 2021 by the Vatican authorities for "spiritual abuse having led to voyeurism on two adult men" and whose sanction was revealed in mid-October by the press. Two other retired bishops “are the subject of investigations today by the justice of our country after reports made by a bishop and a canonical procedure”. A last "is the subject of a report to the prosecutor to which no response has been given to date and has received from the Holy See restrictive measures from his ministry", added the Archbishop of Reims.

On the Santier affair itself, whose silence on the sanction shocked Catholics, Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort acknowledged that in “November 2021, during the autumn assembly” of the episcopate, he had informed the bishops "that disciplinary measures had been taken against Bishop Santier, but without giving any indication of the acts he had committed".
He admitted "on re-reading this story", "serious shortcomings and dysfunctions at all levels", regretting that a request for a "prior investigation" sent by the Vatican authorities to the then Archbishop of Paris , Michel Aupetit, in May 2020, was not carried out.

Olivier Savignac, for the collective of Victims to speak and relive, said he was "shaken" by the revelations about Cardinal Ricard and the "dizzying" number of bishops who had to deal with justice. “There are a lot of hidden things. How many more will come out? “, he questioned, deploring to AFP that “the Church only reacts once at the foot of the wall”.

For his part, Alix Huon, of the collective of faithful Agir pour notre Eglise, deplores "a great sadness to hear this". She is waiting for "a real rudder" with "clear announcements" on Tuesday, at the end of the Lourdes assembly.

These revelations come a little over a year after the publication of the shock report of the Sauvé Commission estimating at around 330 the number of victims of priests, deacons, religious or people linked to the Church of France since 000. At its conclusion, the episcopate had recognized its “institutional responsibility” in this violence.

MC (with AFP)

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Benoist

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