A former French priest accused of sexually abusing about 75 children while working as his chaplain explorer is being tried in Lyon, the worst drama of abuse of France’s clergy so far.
It is suspected that the church hierarchy covered up Bernard Preynat’s actions for decades and a French cardinal was convicted last year for not informing the police or prosecutors.
The repercussions of the case reached the Vatican.
Preynat admitted having abused children in the seventies and eighties, and said yesterday to the court: “I have heard the suffering of these people, of which I am guilty. I hope this trial can take place as quickly as possible.”
Preynat, now 74, is charged with sexual assault of 10 children between 1986 and 1991. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
He is also accused of abusing dozens of people in the 1970s and 1980s, but those alleged incidents occurred long ago to be prosecuted.
The parents first alerted the diocese to an alleged sexual abuse by Preynat in 1991. The priest swore to the cardinal that he would no longer touch a child, and no other victim has come forward saying he abused them after 1991 .
That year he wrote a letter to the parents of a victim who wanted him to leave the Scout association he ran, and told them: “I swear that since the beginning of the school year in September, absolutely nothing has happened between the children and me.
“Everything that happened has shocked me and made me think. I’m not trying to justify myself because I’m wrong. Let me finish the year normally.”
At the time of the abuse, Preynat was in charge of the Saint-Luc scout camp at a private Catholic school in Sainte-Foy-les-Lyons in the suburbs of Lyon for 20 years, then continued his career as a priest until 2015 in 2015. The mountains near Lyon.
In 2014, the priest was overcome by his past.
Alexandre Hezez, who said he had been abused as a child by Preynat, became public as an adult and asked the church hierarchy why he was still in office. Other victims also showed up, one by one.
It was not until last year that the French Catholic Church found Preynat guilty of abuse and removed him from the priesthood.
Upon dismissal, the church said in a statement: “In view of the facts and their recurrence, the large number of victims, the fact that Father Bernard Preynat abused the authority that had given him his position within the Scout group that had founded, the court decided to apply the maximum penalty, that is, the dismissal of the clerical state. “
That decision came after French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted in March for covering up Preynat’s actions.
Barbarin tried to resign, but Pope Francis refused to accept him until the appeal process is complete. A ruling of the appeals court is expected on January 30.
Several other church officials were also accused of not alerting police or prosecutors, including a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria.
The Vatican invoked his immunity as an official of a sovereign state.