French Cardinal Acquitted of Abuse Cover-up on Appeal, SNAP Reacts

A French cardinal saw his conviction for failing to report abuse overturned on appeal yesterday. We are concerned about the message sent by this news and hope that it does not embolden other Catholic officials, who continue to be opaque about cases of clergy sexual abuse.

We agree with the opinion shared by Jean Boudot, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, that the acquittal of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin does not make sense and suggests that the responsibility to report a crime ends when the victim reaches an arbitrary age. The decision also ignored the fact that a still living perpetrator remains a threat to the innocent, even if the reporting victims are now adults.

The fact is that Cardinal Barbarin knew about abuses committed by Fr. Bernard Preynat and that he failed to report those crimes to police. Regardless of whether his inaction and silence was deemed legal by French authorities, it certainly does not pass the morality test. We are glad that attorneys for the plaintiffs will appeal the verdict before the highest court in France.

Cardinal Barbarin may have prevailed in court, but his inaction and lack of care for victims is now a part of the permanent public record. His victory is a hollow, and hopefully temporary, one. As a “Prince of the Church,” the cardinal should be holding himself to a higher standard. He should be so disturbed by cases of abuse that he would want to inform the police about them. Cardinal Barbarin has hidden behind technical distinctions, and we believe this should erode his moral authority among French parishioners.

We hope that this story will remind survivors, witnesses and whistle-blowers of the importance of reporting crimes to law enforcement, not Catholic officials.

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

(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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