French Abuse Trial Shows the Worldwide Spread of Vatican’s Abuse Playbook
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 ([email protected], 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)