The defense of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin insisted on Thursday that the religious, the highest of the French ecclesiastical hierarchy to sit on the bench accused of silencing the case of a pedophile priest, He did, like the other five accused of the diocese of Lyon, "what he should do", and lamented that the religious has become "almost the world symbol of pedophilia."
"His name has been unfairly linked to pedophilia for more than two years. Tons of mud have been thrown at him (…) Is Cardinal Barbarin persecuted by himself or as the incarnation of an institution? From the beginning, this man has been forced to embody the curse of the Church in this case, "said Jean-Felix Luciani on the last day of public hearings, in which the defense finished presenting the final arguments.
The verdict will be announced on March 7, announced at the end of the session. The three judges of the correctional court of Lyon will have to decide until then if Barbarin and the other defendants committed a crime by not reporting to the court the information they had about the pedophile acts of priest Bernard Preynat when several of his victims, all adults, revealed to them the events, which took place before 1991. The defense received a boost on Thursday, whenThe prosecutor's office announced that it will not ask for any conviction because it considers that there are no new elements that vary its 2016 decision to file the case because it had prescribed. The six defendants have been brought to justice through a "direct summons", a particular judicial appeal from France that allows the victim, under certain conditions, to go directly to the court. This is what the nine plaintiffs did, all victims of Preynat from the late 70s to 1990, when the priest ran a group scout of Lyon.
The accusers have openly declared that, regardless of whether the trial ends with a conviction or not, its objective was to denounce the silence with which for decades the Church hid pedophile priests like Preynat and the potential danger that this has entailed for hundreds or thousands of other children due to the fact that these religious, like Preynat, remained in positions that allowed them contact with minors despite their past.
Although Preynat admitted to his superiors in 1991 that he had abused dozens of minors in previous decades, the Church kept him for 25 more years in positions that allowed him to maintain continuous contact with other children, although some of the victims were assured who had been removed from any function with minors.
In 2010, Cardinal Barbarin, who arrived in Lyon in 2002, even promoted it. Only at the end of 2014, when Alexandre Hezez, a former victim of Preynat who discovered by chance that the priest was still working with children detailed the abuses suffered, Barbarin acted writing to Rome to ask for "instructions". The Vatican ordered him in January 2015 to immediately remove him from any role that involved contact with minors but at the same time urged him to "avoid any public scandal." Barbarin decided to separate him completely from his duties, but his departure from the parish where he was was not carried out until September 1, the usual date of changes of priestly posts, something that has been strongly criticized the cardinal during the trial, since it means that Preynat was even more than seven months exercising the same functions, even giving communion to minors.
The cardinal "has admitted that he did not understand some things at the time, that he should have investigated more and done more and that he did not … but it was never willing to cover anything. I hope that has been understood, "Luciani told reporters.
The legal basis of the defense of Barbarin and the other defendants, including a bishop and an archbishop, is that although they could make mistakes, it was never with the intention of "covering up" the pedophile priest. And if they did not report the facts it is because the information was received from adults who had told them that they knew their cases had been prescribed.
The Auxiliary Bishop of Lyon, Emmanuel Gobilliard, starred in a special moment on the last day of the trial hearings by thanking one of the accusers, François Devaux, president of the Liberated Word Association that brings together victims of pedophile cures and that is responsible for having opened the debate on the silencing in the French Catholic Church of this scourge.
"Thank you for having released the word, thank you for making it possible for there to be a trial against the priest Preynat, because without you it probably would not have taken place," said Gobilliard in a recess of the last public hearing, according to a video the local newspaper Le Progress. "They have changed me. I am not the same man. Thank you for doing this for the Church, because there were dysfunctions, difficulties, and we have to change. So thanks. This does not end here, "he said.