French Cardinal Say He Did Nothing Wrong In Covering Up Sex Abuse

Cardinals Friendly chatFrench Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyons France, may face criminal charges for his failure to remove a priest accused of sexually molesting at least 45 French Boy Scouts in the 1980s and 1990s.

The priest, Father Bernard Preynat, admitted to authorities that he molested the Scouts. He was suspended by Barbarin in 2015 but the Archdiocese of Lyons knew about Preynat’s criminal activity since 1991. Preynat was removed from his parish in 1991, but he was later re-instated after repenting of his actions. In fact, Barbarin promoted Preynat to an administrative position in 2007.

Cardinal Barbarin offered damning evidence against himself. In a February 10 interview with France’s Catholic La Croix Daily, Barbarin admitted he had heard about Preynat’s activities “around 2007-2008,” but took no action because the priest assured him he had committed no further offenses.

Barbarin defends his actions by arguing that he eventually removed the priest in 2015, although it was 25 years after the Archdiocese first found about him. The cardinal has also stated that he wasn’t in charge when the information was revealed and therefore he should be absolved of any wrongdoing.

But in France it is a criminal offense to fail to report sexual abuse of a child to law enforcement. It doesn’t matter if Barbarin was in charge in 1991, or in 2007, or not. Cardinal Barbarin admitted to the press that he knew about Preynat as early as 2007 or 2008. As soon as he knew about the allegations against Preynat, Barbarin had a duty under French law to report him to law enforcement. His pitiful argument he shouldn’t be prosecuted because he eventually removed the priest from his job, even though he never reported him, is weak.

Stories like this make it very difficult for the Catholic Church to earn public support. When bishops and cardinals are caught red-handed they offer excuses not action. Cardinal Barbarin deserves to face criminal charges for the suffering he allowed because he didn’t do what any citizen is expected do when they learn of a crime – call the cops! He shouldn’t be allowed to wiggle his way out of this one.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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