A French cardinal has been definitively cleared of charges of failing to report sexual abuse by clergy and has been indemnified from further lawsuits. Source: The Tablet.
The Court of Cassation – one of four courts of last resort in France, with jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters – ruled after eight victims of a former priest appealed when Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was acquitted for failing to report the abuse.
“A person having knowledge of hardships, mistreatments or sexual assaults inflicted on a minor aged 15, or on a person unable to protect himself by reason of age, illness, infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or pregnancy commits a crime if they do not inform the judicial or administrative authorities,” the Court of Cassation ruled.
“In this case, the bishop was not bound to denounce the aggressions, because the victims, aged 34-36, were integrated into family, social and professional life, without illness or deficiency, and so were in a position to lodge their own complaint.”
It said France’s statute of limitations involved “complex rules” and did not absolve citizens of the duty to report crimes against minors, even if dating back decades, but added that the duty only applied if victims were unable to report past offences themselves.
The cardinal, who headed France’s Lyon Archdiocese from 2002 to 2020, received a six-month suspended jail sentence in March 2019 for failing to report accusations against a former priest, Bernard Preynat, who was jailed in March 2020 for multiple assaults on boys between 1971 and 1991.