By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
PARIS (Worthy News) – More than a dozen French Catholic bishops are suspected of “sexual abuse or cover-up,” including a cardinal who admitted to abusing a teenage girl 35 years ago, Catholic leaders and the Vatican said Tuesday.
Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF), expressed shock about the revelations.
He told reporters in Lourdes, southwestern France, that some high-ranking Church officials faced either “criminal or canonical prosecution” or both.
Among them is the ex-Archbishop of Bordeaux, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who was twice president of the CEF. He is currently a member of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the Vatican’s oldest institutions.
In remarks to the CEF read out by Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort, Cardinal Ricard admitted to having “behaved in a reprehensible manner towards a 14-year-old girl” 35 years ago when he was a priest.
“There is no doubt that my behavior caused serious and long-lasting consequences for that person,” the 78-year-old Cardinal stressed. He added that he asked the woman and her family for “forgiveness” and was “going on retreat to pray.”
Among the other suspects is Bishop Michel Santier of the Paris suburb of Creteil, sanctioned by the Vatican for “spiritual abuse having led to voyeurism involving two adult men,” Vatican sources said Tuesday.
Besides the 11 clergies being investigated, two other retired bishops are questioned by the French authorities and the target of a Church probe, Worthy News monitored.
Separately another bishop has been reported to the authorities, but prosecutors have not yet responded, “while the Holy See has suspended him from his duties,” Vatican Radio said.
Another French bishop, André Fort, was already sentenced in 2018 to a suspended prison sentence of eight months over abuse charges.
CEF President Moulins-Beaufort said Santier’s case and others underscored the “serious shortcomings and dysfunction at every level” within the Catholic leadership.
The latest revelations come just over a year after the publication of an independent church commission confirmed widespread abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and lay members of the Catholic Church dating from the 1950s.
“The 2,500-page report” released on October 4, 2021, after a two-and-a-half-year investigation, “revealed that an estimated 330,000 people in France had been victims of sexual abuse within the Church as children over seventy years,” Vatican Radio said.
Following the publication, bishops pledged to take action and tackle sexual abuse. Yet, Tuesday’s revelations underscored it would take time before the wounds of recent Catholic history are not healed completely in France.