The Catholic Church says 11 French bishops have been accused of sexual abuse

The Catholic Church says 11 French bishops have been accused of sexual abuse


PARIS – Eight former French bishops have been accused of sexual abuse and three other bishops have been accused of sexual abuse, the French bishops’ conference said Monday, signaling that some top Catholic officials not only turned a blind eye for decades but may have been perpetrators themselves. .

Among those under investigation was Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the former head of the French bishops’ conference, who admitted to being a priest to a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago.

“I behaved in a reprehensible way,” Ricard, 78, wrote in a confessional letter read at a press conference by Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the current president of the bishops’ conference.

Ricard retired in 2019 nearly two decades as Archbishop of Bordeaux, but he retained the rank of cardinal. He was appointed this year to temporarily oversee the Roman Catholics Charitable centers an organization that was making changes after being rocked by sexual violence scandals.

Monday’s revelations, which came at an annual conference of church officials, were “shocking but not surprising,” said Zach Hiner, executive director of SNAP, a network for victims of church abuse.

Some of the allegations were already well known, and where independent commissions or church officials have looked for evidence of sexual abuse in recent decades, they have tended to find cases on a staggering scale.

Last year, a report by an independent French commission found that French Catholic clergy had abused more than 200,000 minors over the past 70 years. The report estimated the number of perpetrators at at least 3,000.

Independent commission estimates Catholic clergy in France may have abused more than 200,000 minors

“One doesn’t get to these levels without having significant problems at the top,” said Hiner, who said abuse allegations against “people at the highest levels of the Catholic Church” have multiplied.

A report by an independent commission in France last year gathered more than 6,000 testimonies, including from victims and witnesses, and a number of cases were referred to law enforcement.

Moulin-Beaufort said Monday that at least some of the accused bishops would be investigated or investigated by state authorities alongside the church’s investigations. But in cases where the prosecutor’s office window has closed, internal investigations are the only option.

Among the affected organizations, those internal procedures have prompted calls for greater transparency.

“It can be pretty opaque,” Hiner said, criticizing cases where bishops have been punished by the church “but without giving parishioners and the public much information as to why.”

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