PARIS (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic archbishop of Lyon acknowledged shortcomings in his response to a pedophilia scandal in his archdiocese and said more rigorous checks were in place to prevent past errors in the appointment of priests being repeated.
In an interview with Le Monde, published ahead of the Aug. 15 Feast of the Assumption celebration, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin reiterated that he had never concealed acts of sexual abuse by Father Bernard Preynat, a priest under his authority.
Preynat is accused of sexually abusing Catholic boy scouts during the 1980s and early 1990s. He is due to appear before a court next month. Preynat’s lawyer has said the priest admits the abuse but that the cases have passed the legal statute of limitations when they were reported.
Prosecutors in 2016 extensively questioned Barbarin, one of France’s top Catholic clerics, over why Preynat’s activities had not been reported to civil authorities earlier before dropping their investigation into allegations of a cover-up.
Barbarin told Le Monde he became aware of Preynat’s activities in 2007. When he “knocked on doors” for advice nobody gave him a satisfactory answer, he said.
“I myself realize that my response at the time was inadequate,” Barbarin told the newspaper.
No priest would again be welcomed into his archdiocese without written assurance from their bishop that there was no complaint or criminal conviction against them, Barbarin said. Compulsory training has also been introduced for priests under his authority.
Barbarin has been summoned as a witness on the request of the victims who filed the complaint against Preynat.
Barbarin said he understood their anger.
“Their suffering is as painful today as it was 30 years ago. For them, it is appalling and unacceptable that he was allowed to carry on serving as a priest,” Barbarin said.
The archbishop said he respected next month’s summons and urged Pope Francis to meet the victims at a later date too
Sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests first made headlines in the U.S. in 2002, when a newspaper investigation revealed U.S. bishops had moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them.
Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Alison Williams