Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of France admits to abusing a child
(For Immediate Release November 8, 2022)
Shocking news has come out of France as one of the Catholic Church’s highest-ranking members there has publicly admitted that he has sexually abused at least one child while he was a parish priest. This news is another blow to the French church’s moral authority and is a story that we hope will encourage other still-suffering victims to come forward and get help.
According to reports the now-retired Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who had previously led the Archdiocese of Bordeaux, has admitted that he sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in the1990s. Additionally, 11 other bishops in France are being investigated on claims that they too sexually abused children. Clearly, the rot at the top of the French church is only beginning to be revealed.
While this sudden confession is shocking to many, we are not surprised by these revelations. When an independent report into sexual abuse in France was published, it estimated that as many as 216,000 children were victims of clergy sexual abuse and that at least 3,700 clergy and lay abusers worked in the French church. These numbers are massive and spoke to the fact that there must have been abusers at every level of the church for the problem to go unchecked for so long. Today’s news validates that assumption.
We hope that this news will bring encouragement and comfort to other victims of high-ranking church officials. Cardinal Ricard’s admission today is just the latest in a string of prominent prelates to be accused of abuse in recent years. Just two weeks ago, Nobel Laureate and Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo was suspended as a result of accusations that he had molested children in the 1990s. Earlier this year, Cardinal Marc Ouellet was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing an adult. One year ago this month, the Vatican released its report into the myriad cases of abuse and cover-ups of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In 2019, Cardinal Pell of Australia escaped jail time after his conviction for sexual abuse was overturned in a controversial decision. The issue of sexual abuse at the highest levels of the church is not a problem unique to France.
Once again, we are reminded that change and justice only come when it is forced upon institutions by outside, secular authorities. We can only wonder if this Cardinal would still be in power if it were not for the CIASE report and the reckoning that has followed. This news should be a signal to every nation that has yet to undertake a national investigation into clergy sexual abuse that the time to start is now. This global problem can only be solved when institutions are held to account and abusers and enablers are identified and removed from positions of power and honor.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)