Pope lavishes praise on cardinal who remained silent over abuse

Patheos [Englewood CO]

November 12, 2021

By Barry Duke

Today, La Figaro reported that Pope Francis, addressing a group of more than 500 poor people from across Europe in the Basilica of St  Mary of the Angels in Assisi, took the opportunity to thank Cardinal Barbarin, saying the the cardinal had lived:

With dignity the experience of abandonment … I would like to thank Cardinal Barbarin for his presence. He is among the poor. He too lived with dignity the experience of poverty, abandonment, mistrust. And he defended himself with silence and prayer. Thank you, Cardinal Barbarin, for your testimony which builds the Church

According to this report, after he won his appeal, Barbarin said:

I will remain the one who did not denounce heinous acts. Yet justice has just said that it was not for me to do it.

On learning of the Pope praise of Barbarin on the World Day of the Poor, Keith Porteous Wood, President of the National Secular Society, sent me this statement:

The Pope made this comment despite an official commission recently revealing that since 1950 there have been around a 1/3 of a million child victims of sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church that Cardinal Barbarin and his predecessors led. Presumably, there must have been around a million incidents of abuse. The lives of many of these victims, and their families, have been irreparably damaged.

Cardinal Barbarin and his two predecessors, the most senior Catholic clerics in France, knowingly allowed Bernard Preynat, a serial child rapist, and scoutmaster of a Catholic scout troup, to remain a priest and failed to alert the secular authorities to this abuse. The court that convicted Preynat was told that he had abused 3,000-4,000 child victims, over several decades.

Reporting child abuse has been mandatory in France since 2000. Twenty-five bishops have been credibly accused of failure to report. No recommendation was made by the Commission that all those suspected of abuse in the past be reported now.  

Despite the conviction and a prison sentence, Preynat unaccountably walked free from court. Practically no priests or laity have been prosecuted in connection with the 1/3 million victims and many more incidents of abuse.

Cardinal Barbarin’s conviction for non-disclosure was for some reason reversed by higher courts.

Imagine how the victims must feel at the Pope picking Barbarin out to pay homage to him. The Pope might as well have raised a placard saying it is only the Church and its reputation that matters. The hundreds of thousands of victims we damaged are an irrelevancy. It is Cardinal Barbarin that deserves our support rather than them.

The Pope’s presence in Assissi is widely reported today on major Catholic sites such as the Catholic News Agency and the Catholic News Service, but it appears that only two, the National Catholic Register, briefly mentioned Barbarin’s presence.

The National Catholic Register reported that the cardinal was present because of his association with a charitable group, Fratello, which helped to organise the event and The National Catholic Reporter said that the Pope asked Barbarin for forgiveness for drawing attendees’ attention to his presence.