Almost a year after the French justice system decided to drop criminal proceedings against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, and six others for failing to report sexual abuse of boy scouts committed by a priest, the case has been reopened.The abuses took place between 1978 and 1991.
“If we stop now, who will bring the debate into the public domain?” said François Devaux, the head of La Parole Libérée (“Lift the Burden of Silence”) an organisation of former Saint-Luc Scout Group members, many of whom who were sexually abused by the priest who led the group, Bernard Preynat.
After a preliminary investigation, it was decided in August 2016 not to pursue a case against Barbarin and the other six. But the priest’s victims have now come together to bring a civil action against that decision.
Seven people were yesterday issued summonses to appear before the Lyon criminal court in September. Apart from Barbarin, they are: Pierre Durieux, the cardinal’s chief of staff; Régine Maire, the former head of the unit created to provide assistance to victims of abuse by priests; former episcopal vicar Fr Xavier Grillon; Mgr Maurice Gardès, the archbishop of Auch; Mgr Thierry Brac de la Perrière, bishop of Nevers; and Luis Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith.
“This is not a case about just one man, Cardinal Barbarin, but about a whole institution,” according to La Parole Libérée’s lawyers.
They hope to demonstrate that the failure of the seven to report the priest’s crimes should be subject to prosecution, contrary to the ruling of the state prosecutor in Lyon.
The Lyon prosecutor based his decision to drop the case partly on a law that says crimes must be prosecuted within three years. The lawyers argue that this period began at the point when the victims notified the authorities, in June 2015.
“We believe we can raise public awareness through a citizens’ case,” said Devaux. He wore a green wristband, the emblem of a campaign to change the statute of limitation rules for pedophile crimes.
“But initiating legal action is not enough to give the debate credibility,” he added. He said victims had a moral responsibility to take their cases to the bitter end so as, if possible, “establish jurisprudence".
Barbarin has not reacted publicly to his summons.
French cardinal to face new legal action over pedophile cover-up Bénévent Tosseri, Lyon France May 24, 2017