Cardinal Barbarin Interviewed by Police -- Lyon and the New Motu Proprio
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin
(Paris) Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon and Primate of the Gauls, was today questioned by the police. It is about the accusation that the cardinal could have covered up abuse by a priest from 25 years ago.
For weeks the Cardinal was in the spotlight of the French press.Because of his rank in the Catholic Church it is also reported in international media.Barbarin was heard as a witness. No charges were filed against him.
The media seems to want to induce an accusation outright. The Socialist Secretary Juliette Méadel has already demanded his resignation. The framing of a Church leader is not difficult in government circles. The climate in France has been fueled since the socialist government takeover. Cardinal Barbarin had spoken strongly against the legalization of "gay marriage".
The legal question is complicated. The priest Bernard Preynat was indicted last January, for having offended against several children 1986-1991.
Cardinal Barbarin was certain he had uncovered no sexual abuse. It was only in 2002 that the Archbishop of Lyon discovered it many years after Preynat's last alleged assault.
The "scandal" was raised by the media around the question of when the Cardinal learned of the incidents. Preynat worked until 2015 in the Archdiocese. The diocese had filed a complaint against him in the autumn of last year.
According to media reports, the responses of the diocese would have changed over time. First Cardinal Barbarin had declared to have had a first contact with an alleged victim in 2014. Later he said that they had heard rumors 2007/2008 first through third parties. The time issue has now been brought into plain view, because it involved the statutory limitation periods for the crime of cover-up.
The Motu Proprio of Pope Francis on the deposing of bishops
Last Saturday the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis that the Pope gives extensive possibilities to depose bishops and religious superiors has, since then, been seen in connection with the case of Barbarin.
The Cardinal had admitted to "errors in the administration" through the appointment of some priests last April 25 at a meeting of his diocesan priests. It is exactly this formulation that can be found in the Motu Proprio of Pope Francis again.
The victims of Preynat have come together in the Association La Parole Libérée (Free to Speak) and say, that Cardinal Barbarin had followed an earlier line, which was in force in the Church, that one should remain silent about such incidents. Six of them have filed a complaint against the Cardinal and therefore, initiated the investigation against the Cardinal, which led to his interrogation today.
The Preynat case had come through the Diocese's notice, began the process in October, 2015. Since then, investigations have been initiated against other priests of the archdiocese because the media reports further allegations were made. There have been no convictions.
This coming Friday, the Court will rule on the limitation period in the case Preynat. Should the court confirm the statute of limitations, it is likely to be an invalid charge against the Cardinal. However, since the case has stirred up so much commotion, and touches upon the sensitive anti-clerical milieu in France, not all lawyers share this opinion.
So far, one bishop in France was convicted of covering up a sexual abuse case. It was Msgr. Pierre Pican, who was sentenced in 2001 to three months conditional imprisonment.