Lyon cardinal resigns over paedophile scandal

The archbishop of Lyon has announced his resignation after being given a six-month suspended jail term for failing to report child sex abuse.

Philippe Barbarin, 68, is the most senior French cleric caught up in the clerical paedophilia scandal which Pope Francis vowed to fight in an “all-out battle”.

Barbarin (pictured) is the third senior French cleric to be found guilty of failing to report sex abuse.

A court in Lyon ruled that Barbarin, a cardinal since 2003, failed to report claims of abuse of boy scouts committed by a priest, Bernard Preynat, in the 1980s and 1990s.

Preynat, who was charged in 2016, is expected to be tried this year.

The former priest, now 73, ran a scout group in Lyon for many years. Numerous men say he sexually assaulted them as children.

Preynat’s lawyer said his client admitted the allegations, but the statute of limitations had expired. French prosecutors argue that some of the offences can still be enforced and a criminal case has been opened against the priest.

Some of Preynat’s victims took action against Barbarin and five others over their inaction. They used provisions in French law to bring a private prosecution, bypassing the prosecutor’s office which did not pursue the case against the cardinal.

Francois Devaux, who leads the victims’ group La Parole Liberee (Liberated Word) in Lyon, called the verdict a “major victory for child protection”.

Barbarin said he “duly acknowledged the court’s decision” but his lawyer said he would appeal.
“I have decided to go to see the Holy Father to hand him my resignation. He will receive me in a few days’ time,” Barbarin told the media. “Independently from my own fate, I wish once again to stress my compassion for the victims.”

The highly conservative cardinal who given the nickname “Mr 100,000 Volts” by the media for the energy he displayed in his campaigns against the persecution of Syrian Christians and gay marriage.

“I cannot see what I am guilty of,” Barbarin told the court in January. “I never tried to hide, let alone cover up these horrible facts.”

But the court said the archbishop chose not to tell the authorities about abuse allegations “in order to preserve the institution to which he belongs”.

The verdict said: “By wanting to avoid a scandal caused by a priest’s multiple sex offences, and probably in seeking to conform to inadequate decisions taken by bishops before him, Philippe Barbarin preferred to take the risk that justice would be unable to uncover a great number of victims of sexual abuse and prevent them from voicing their pain.”

 

Philippe Barbarin. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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