In these hours, the diocese of Lyon is in the grip of a case of sex abuse committed about 25 years ago by a priest, father Bernard Preynat, on some boy Scouts. The case was raised by a victim of the priest, who is now a cardiologist and co-founder, with other victims, of the association “La Parole liberée”. The event dates back to the Eighties, when the boy was just 10 years old. He thought the priest had died, but then he happened to see a photo of him, in a paper, surrounded by children, and he was “shocked”. Many are the children who have been abused by the priest. The case is undergoing criminal investigations, and the priest, who is now 71, has been indicted and put under court supervision “for aggravated sex abuse” after four reports were filed against him in May 2015. But it seems the case is not over yet: since December, the association’s blog was been literally bombarded with reports, and there seem to be about “45 self-confessed victims”. Asked about it by the Catholic newspaper “La Croix”, cardinal Philippe Barbarin tells that he became aware of the episode in 2007/2008, but also that he believed in the version the indicted priest had given him about what had happened: “Someone from Sainte-Foy-lès–Lyon – the cardinal says – told me about F. Preynat’s conduct in 2007-2008. So, I asked him for a meeting, so I could ask him if anything had happened in this respect since 1991. And he reassured me: ‘Nothing at all, I have been completely stung by this case’. Someone blames me for believing him … Yes, I did”.
“When I arrived in Lyon – the cardinal goes on – I did not know anything. Then, when I learnt about the events, we had no reports. I am waiting for the civil proceedings to end. If the lawsuit is statute barred, then I will open canonical proceedings, because the case must be judged: that’s why I will ask Rome to remove the statute barring that is provided under canon law”. Cardinal Barbarin also says that he asked cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Committee for the Protection of Minors, set up in 2013, for advice. And then he adds: “I can say that, because I am a bishop, every time a case of abuse has been reported to me, I have immediately responded, I suspended the priest and alerted the judiciary system: it happened in Lyon in 2007 and in 2014. With father Preynat, the situation is very different, because these were old events for which there was no report or any sign of recurrence. My only concern has always been to make sure no evil is ever committed again”.