January 30, 2020
By Nicolas Vaux-Montagny
A French appeals court is deciding whether a French cardinal is guilty of covering up the sexual abuse of minors in his flock.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty in March of failing to report a predator priest to police and given a six-month suspended sentence. But Pope Francis refused to accept the cardinal’s decision to resign until the appeals process is complete.
The Lyon court, in southeast France, is to rule Thursday afternoon. The prosecutor’s office was seeking an acquittal.
Barbarin, 69, said at his appeals trial in November that he filed an appeal because “I cannot see clearly what I am guilty of.”
The verdict comes at a time of increasing scrutiny around the world of the Catholic Church’s role in hiding abuse by its clergy.
The court had ruled that Barbarin, “in wanting to avoid scandal caused by the facts of multiple sexual abuses committed by a priest … preferred to take the risk of preventing the discovery of many victims of sexual abuse by the justice system, and to prohibit the expression of their pain.”
Bernard Preynat, the now-defrocked priest at the center of the scandal, described to a court at his trial earlier this month how he systematically abused boys over two decades as a French scout chaplain. Preynat said his superiors knew about his “abnormal” behavior as far back as the 1970s.
“Had the church sidelined me earlier, I would have stopped earlier,” Preynat said.
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