French Cardinal Accused Of Covering Up Sex Abuse

| by Nik Bonopartis
French Cardinal Philippe BarbarinFrench Cardinal Philippe Barbarin

A French cardinal faces increasing pressure to step down after he was accused of covering up sexual abuse by a priest.

During the week of March 7, the Lyon prosecutors' office announced preliminary charges against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 65, for "nondenunciation of a crime," the Religion News Service reports. Five other members of the diocese also face the same charges.

On March 15, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls added his voice to the growing chorus of people criticizing Barbarin for allegedly allowing a priest to retain his position -- and access to children -- despite allegations of molestation.

The priest in question, Bernard Preynat, admitted to abusing young boy scouts from 1986 to 1991, the Agence France Press reported. His lawyer added that church officials knew of the allegations against Preynat since 1991, when he was removed from his position as Scout Leader. 

Officials launched an investigation in January following the confession, and Preynat's victims said Barbarin failed to report the sexual abuse allegations to authorities.

Barbarin denied covering for Preynat during a March 15 press conference. According to him, he was not made aware of the allegations against Preynat until around 2007-2008, the AFP reported.

However, on March 15, Barbarin was accused of covering up for a second priest who was accused of sexual abuse, The Local reports.

Barbarin is the Archbishop of Lyon, making him one of France's most senior Catholic clerics and the head of one of its largest dioceses. During the time when Preynat was allegedly abusing boys, Barbarin was not yet a cardinal, the Religion News Service notes.

During his March 15 interview with BFM TV, Valls stopped short of saying Barbarin should resign, or assigning guilt to the archbishop, since the investigation is ongoing. But he did say Barbarin should "take responsibility" in the case, which is part of a growing clergy abuse scandal in France, The Local notes.

"It is his responsibility, but he must also understand the pain," Valls said. "I expect not only words, but acts."

During an interview with France's Le Figaro newspaper, one of the sexual abuse victims blamed the cardinal for facilitating a cover-up.

“It’s not for me to be ashamed,” the victim, now a married father, said, according to The Local. “I do not act out of revenge … but out of a desire to contribute as people are becoming aware of what happened.

“When someone is aware of such facts, they must act, especially if you have the responsibility. Cardinal Barbarin had that power to act.”

Sources: Religion News, The Local, Agence France Press via Yahoo News / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia

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