Pope defends keeping French cardinal convicted of cover-up in sex abuse scandal

Associated Press

March 31, 2019

Pope Francis defended his decision to reject French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin’s resignation after he was convicted of covering up for a predator priest, saying Sunday that the appeals process must run its course before a final decision is made.

Francis also explained why he rejected proposals by U.S. bishops to respond to the sex abuse scandal there, saying they neglected the spiritual dimension required for a true reform.

The pope referred to both cases during an in-flight news conference en route home Sunday from Morocco.

Francis’ papacy has been thrown into turmoil by the eruption of the scandal on multiple continents and his own handling of cases at the Vatican. Currently, two of his cardinals — Barbarin and Australian Cardinal George Pell — have criminal abuse-related convictions hanging over them, though both are appealing.

Asked Sunday about Barbarin, Francis said the archbishop of Lyon was entitled to the presumption of innocence as long as the case remained open.

“He has appealed, so the case is open. After the second tribunal decides, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Francis said that presumption of innocence was necessary to guard against a “superficial media condemnation.”

Barbarin offered his resignation to Francis this month after a court in Lyon gave him a six-month suspended sentence for failing to report the Rev. Bernard Preynat to civil authorities when he learned of his abuse. Preynat, who is scheduled to be tried on sexual violence charges next year, confessed to abusing Boy Scouts in the 1970s and 1980s. His victims accuse Barbarin and other church authorities of covering up for him for years.

After Francis declined to accept the resignation, Barbarin decided to take a leave and turned over the day-to-day management of the archdiocese to his deputy.

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