French Abuse Trial Shows the Worldwide Spread of Vatican’s Abuse Playbook

An AP article into a notorious abuse case in France has shown how the Vatican’s playbook in defending priests from abuse charges and keeping crimes under wraps is a global issue.

The idea of a specific, church wide policy on how to prevent abuse cases from gaining public attention was most recently made known in Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s 2018 grand jury report. That report described a process known as the “circle of secrecy” in which Catholic officials would use, among other strategies, deficient and biased investigations, sanitizing language, shifting of accused abusers from parish to parish, and inadequate treatment centers in order to keep parishioners and the public in the dark about clergy abuse. Many of these strategies were also employed in the cover-up of French priest Bernard Preynat’s crimes, too.

In this case, church officials:

  • Moved and hid an abusive priest who, by his own admission, assaulted up to 75 children over a thousand times,
  • Sent him to a church-run “treatment” facility which failed to stop abuse, so instead of removing the abuser the church simply stopped recommending psycotherapy
  • Had been informed of abuse allegations in 1978 but instead allowed the abuser to keep working for an additional 37 years,
  • Warned Fr. Preynat about the impact his abuse could have on the media, as opposed to the impact the abuse could have on his victims.

And throughout the Preynat case, multiple different bishops and cardinals had a chance to stop the abuse and did not. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin himself has already been convicted of failing to report abuse in this case. Notably, church officials in the Vatican not only chose not to punish the Cardinal,, but actually refused his own offer to resign. This is another example of how the Vatican declines to punish those who cover-up crimes; we can only assume this is because they prefer cover-ups to exposure.

Situations like this show why it is impossible to believe Catholic officials when they say that this abuse crisis is "in the past.If church leaders allowed a prolific abuser like Fr. Preynat to continue working until 2015, it is difficult to believe that there are not other priests like him still in ministry. Fr. Preynat himself admits that “had the church sidelined me earlier, I would have stopped earlier.” We shudder to think that there may still be other Preynat’s in parishes around the world today.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(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) 


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  • True Catholic
    commented 2020-01-21 21:42:27 -0600
    It is hard for me to read the above article because Zach Hiner and I personally know the truth is much more horrific than he expresses in his statement. The real truth, as I have stated on these pages, the cover up is not in the past. It continues from the highest levels of the Church in total disregard for the victims of these predators. Father Geoff Drew who sits in jail in Cincinnati, Ohio, awaiting trial on rape charges is not the only priest the hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has covered up and moved around in the past few years. On October 16, 2018, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston wrote to a mother and father in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati "concerning the reprehensible and criminal sexual abuse of your children ". This abuse was fully preventable if acted on when the Archdiocese first knew of the actions of this now laicised priest. The Archdiocese hired a lawyer to gather the information contained in the criminal investigation of his actions to be used in a canonical trial to force him from the priesthood. Then, according to an Archdiocesan priest “They got him to cooperate and remove himself”. The laicization was accepted by Pope Francis and became official November 30, 2018, the laity was never informed, he just disappeared from the list of Diocesan priests. Cardinal O’Malley has personally delivered letters written by these parents to the Office of Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith concerning the actions of the leadership of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in this matter. They have never had a reply. The lack of any response from the Archdiocese or anyone in the hierarchy of the Catholic church, including Pope Francis, to bring justice and healing to this family, validates all that is being reported about the continued cover up of abusive priests in our Church. The rest of the story concerning the actions of the Prosecutor’s office makes this situation worse. This is Pennsylvania all over again. This is a very edited summary of this situation to protect these young victims. Until the laws are changed and we start putting the leaders of our Church in jail, who continue to cover for these predators, the abuse of children and vulnerable adults will continue.

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