Second French priest takes his life after abuse claims
By Jonathan Luxmoore
October 30, 2018
|Fr Fumery's parish in Gien, France|
Priests have spoken out about the difficulties they face, especially because of the mistrust that the sexual abuse crisis has brought
The French Church has been plunged into soul-searching after a second young priest in a month committed suicide after being accused of sexually improper conduct.
Fr Pierre-Yves Fumery, 38, took his life on 20 October after being sent away for psychological treatment because of his close relations with a teenage girl. That was a month after Fr Jean-Baptiste Sebé, also 38, committed suicide after authorities examined accusations he had assaulted a young woman.
“This is a terrible shock, even if we knew he was going through a difficult time,” Bishop Jacques Blaquart told journalists after Fumery’s suicide.
His Orleans diocese now ranks among the best in France in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis; its previous bishop went on trial this week for not denouncing an abusive priest.
Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun used almost the same words when he announced Sebé’s suicide on 18 September. In both cases, the priests were described as popular and hard-working.
“Loneliness, burnout, spiritual and vocational crises — there’s no lack of reasons to discourage priests,” the Catholic weekly La Vie wrote. Add the sexual abuse scandals to that “morose list”, it said, and “priests are tempted to crack up, to flee and to withdraw”.
Priests have spoken out about the difficulties they face, especially because of the mistrust that the sexual abuse crisis has brought. “There is an atmosphere of suspicion around priests, and also between priests and bishops,” said one young priest at a meeting of Burgundy clerics in Paray-le-Monial.
A priest from Autun complained on his blog about being a jack-of-all-trades; “You change the toilet paper in the rectory and go to expose the Blessed Sacrament right afterwards.”
For another in Puy-de-Dôme, even many churchgoers have little or no Christian culture. “One sometimes has the impression of being from outer space,” he said. “You rarely feel happy celebrating a baptism or a wedding.”
In a first, the bishops’ conference has invited victims of sexual abuse to their autumn meeting in Lourdes. Critics noted they will not address the plenary session (3-8 November) but meet bishops in smaller groups.