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Cardinal Barbarin convicted of non-disclosure of sexual assault

The six-month suspended sentence means that he intentionally obstructed justice by not denouncing a priest’s abuse of children.

“I do not see what I’m guilty of,” said Cardinal Philippe Barbarin during his trial in Lyon. On Thursday, March 7, the Criminal Court finally found him guilty of part of the facts of non-reporting of sexual abuse of minors aged 15 who were worth pursuing him, and sentenced him to six months in prison suspended sentence.

He, however, pronounced the release of the five other defendants, the Archbishop of Auch, Maurice Gardes; the bishop of Nevers, Thierry Brac de La Perrière; priest Xavier Grillon; and the two lay people, Pierre Durieux, former cabinet director of Philippe Barbarin, and Régine Maire, who was tasked by the archdiocese with receiving victims of pedophilia.

Symbolically, the judges therefore hold the guilt of the highest member of the Catholic hierarchy, against which the association The liberated Word had lodged a complaint denouncing the silence of the Church in the face of pedophilia peddled against Bernard Preynat, a former scout chaplain from Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon (Rhône). This decision therefore means that, for the judges, Cardinal Barbarin intentionally obstructed justice by refraining from denouncing the facts brought to his attention.

“A great victory for the protection of children”

The lawyers of Cardinal Barbarin immediately announced that they would appeal this decision. “The motivation of the court does not convince me. We will therefore challenge this decision by all the appropriate legal means ,  said Jean-Felix Luciani, who believes that ” it was difficult for the court to resist such pressure with documentaries, a film … It poses real questions about respect for justice “.

On the side of the plaintiffs, this conviction is considered “a great victory for the protection of childhood” , according to François Devaux, the co-founder of the victims association La Parole libérée:

“This victory sends a very strong signal to many victims and allows them to understand that they are heard, listened to and recognized … [This is]  the culmination of a long journey for the emergence of an awareness. “

The hearing in early January had marked the spirits, as the prelate embodies for three years in France the crisis of the Church against pedophilia, which has been the subject of an unprecedented summit of the Catholic hierarchy in the Vatican. At the end of the proceedings, prosecutor Charlotte Trabut did not require a sentence against the archbishop , nor the five former members of the diocese prosecuted with him, while ensuring his impartiality. They incurred three years in prison and 45,000 euros fine.

Testimonials “poignant”

A delicate position to hold after the testimonies, raw and poignant, delivered to the bar by former Scouts at the origin of the case. But an opinion in line with that of the prosecution, which had closed a follow-up first survey in 2016.

Supported by the Victims’ Association The Liberated Word, nine men first accused Father Bernard Preynat of abusing them – facts for which the latter has not yet been tried – before filing a complaint against those who did not say anything about the actions of the priest.

In the absence of prosecution, in 2017 they launched a direct summons procedure before the court, which guaranteed them a trial for the first time since the revelation of the case, at the end of 2015. François Devaux, co-founder of La Parole Libérée, denies any “fury against the person” of Bishop  Barbarin, but it seems “important that this debate took place in a court” , since “the pope does not take his responsibilities to apply the zero tolerance he has been advocating for years on sexual aggression in the Church.

Exemplary trial

François Devaux, co-founder of La Parole Libérée, January 7, 2019. LAURENT CIPRIANI / AP

Conducted two months ago by the president of the 17 thCorrectional Chamber, Brigitte Vernay, the trial was up to the stakes. The 68-year-old prelate explained that he only learned about the attacks on Father Preynat in 2014 when a victim confided in him. For M e  Jean Boudot, civil party lawyer, Cardinal was aware since at least 2010, when he met with the priest on “rumors” that ran on it.

The defense for its part pleaded the relaxation while being upset by the pain of the victims. “But pain is not right” , said M e Jean-Félix Luciani lawyer Primate of the Gauls.

In 2001 and again in 2018, bishops were sentenced in similar cases. Whatever the outcome, the plaintiffs claimed in January to expect from this trial “the beginning of a new era” .

“I believe in all humility that the Church of France will remember. “

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