Eleven French bishops exposed for sexual abuse: another nail in the coffin?
(For Immediate Release November 8, 2022)
During its annual meeting in Lourdes, the Bishops' Conference of France admitted that 11 current or former bishops are facing accusations of sexual misconduct in civil or religious courts. The statement (with few names) was released during a press conference on November 8 by Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the president of the Conference.
Moulins-Beaufort read a letter in which one of the accused, now cardinal Ricard, admits to "reprehensible" behavior with a fourteen-year-old girl when he was a priest 35 years ago. Leaving aside the fact that this admission comes safely after the statutes of limitation have run out there is no indication as to the nature of the "reprehensible" behavior. Still, given the Church's frequent use of euphemisms to describe appalling crimes one can assume the worst.
In another case, Bishop Michel Santier was condemned by the Vatican in 2021 for "spiritual abuses leading to voyeuristic acts involving two adult males". Given the media's squeamishness, it takes a little bit of digging to find out that Santier had invented a game of "strip confession": you take one piece of clothing off for each confessed sin. Give them credit for their creative depravity.
The Church could also get credit for the highly unusual step of coming forward with such revelations. Yes, there is an effort at transparency, but one wonders if such an unusual move is not an attempt at pre-empting revelations that would eventually "drip out" and cause more harm in the long run.
These revelations have caused consternation in French society and among survivors even though they have seen it all and are not really surprised. Still, Francois Devaux, a leading survivor could not contain his rage when interviewed on national radio: "When an institution commits crimes on a massive scale in a systemic manner, particularly against children, there are only two possible outcomes: either it reforms itself or it is disbanded." He adds that this is a "collapse of Catholicism's original message". Your Europe correspondent feels the same way and could not have said it better or more forcefully.