Abuse Scandal Rocks Catholic School in Southwestern France: SNAP Applauds Survivors for Coming Forward

SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [Chicago IL]

March 5, 2024

A criminal investigation was launched last month following reports of physical and sexual abuse at a private Catholic boarding school in Betharram, at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains near Lourdes. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, believes and fully supports the former students who have filed dozens of complaints.

The public prosecutor’s office in Pau opened an investigation on February 1st after receiving twenty complaints for acts of violence, as well as sexual assault and rape, from former students of Notre Dame de Betharram. The accusations go back to the 1970s.  The complaints range from brutal treatments of boarders, such as being forced to stand outside almost naked in freezing temperatures, to night-time visits by priests who sexually abused and raped children in their beds. The complaints were primarily related to acts of violence, but some were for sex crimes.

After the investigation opened, a lay supervisor accused of rape, who was still employed by the school, was removed. SNAP is incredibly sad that it took so long to remove this man from Notre Dame de Betharram, now called Le Beau Rameau. We hope that the investigation will uncover whether officials at the school received earlier complaints about the supervisor, who received those accusations, and what was done about them. If previous complaints were ignored by the school, we grieve for those boys who suffered life-long injuries for crimes that could have been prevented.

We were not surprised to learn that there had also been an abuse investigation at Notre Dame de Betharram in the late 1990s. A teacher at the school, Fr. Pierre Silviet-Carricart, was charged with raping a child.  He was released after two weeks of detention and relocated to Rome. The priest committed suicide there in 2000, just as he was meant to return to France and face justice.  Despite Fr. Silviet-Carricart’s suicide, a canonical investigation by the local diocese concluded in 2017 that there was no case against the cleric.

The depth of the problems at the school is perhaps best illustrated by what happened to Jean-Marie Delbos, now 77. Jean-Marie was repeatedly abused between the ages of 11 and 16.  When he finally complained to his “spiritual advisor,” the response was horrific.  He was placed in a mental hospital and his family was threatened.  Despite the statutes of limitations having run out, Jean-Marie was recently recognized as a victim and compensated by the body set up following the release of the 2021 “Sauvé Report,” which painted a grim picture of clerical sex abuse in France over the last seven decades.   

SNAP extends its deepest sympathy to the victims who have come forward, and hopes that their courage will inspire others abused at Notre Dame de Betharram to make a report. There is no need for anyone to suffer alone and in silence.

Survivors are welcome to reach out to SNAP’s Europe/France representative, Marc Artzrouni, who lives near Betharram and Pau where the police investigation is taking place. He can be reached at: m.artzrouni@snapnetwork.org,+33 (0)6 95 73 65 92.

Parler et Revivre also provides support for victims of clergy sex abuse in France.   

CONTACT:  Marc Artzrouni, SNAP European Coordinator (m.artzrouni@snapnetworg.org – France), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director (msakoda@snapnetwork.org, 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director (mmcdonnell@snapnetwork.org, 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President (sdougherty@snapnetwork.org, 814- 341-8386)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)