For Jessie Talhi, the straw that broke the camel's back was that Pope Francis rejects the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin even though a court condemned him for silencing the case of a pedophile priest. Although she has long defined herself as an atheist, only now Talhi, 31, lives in Lyon, where she was held the trial of the once mighty cardinal turned into a symbol of omertàof the French Church on child abuse, decided to apostatize. "I did not want to remain linked in any way to the current Catholic Church," he explains by email. A very shared feeling. Although the French Church does not give total figures, numerous indications confirm an increase of those who decide to leave the Church at a time when their credibility crosses one of its lowest moments. The Conference of Bishops of France, meeting last week in Lourdes, acknowledged its concern for the situation and seeks solutions to face it.
It is not for less. According to a survey at the end of March, 56% of French people and, above all, More than four out of ten Catholics have a bad image of the Church. The scandals of pedophilia and sexual abuse are the main culprits. 83% consider that they constitute one of the most serious crises in the Church.
The data does not surprise the priest Pierre Vignon, one of the most critical internal voices with the response of the hierarchy to pedophilia. Last summer, he launched an online petition calling for the resignation of Cardinal Barbarin for hiding the scandal of priest Bernard Preynat, who abused dozens of minors when he led a group scout of Lyon. The petition, which garnered more than 100,000 signatures, earned Vignon a clerical sanction.
"The loss of credibility of the Church is important, and the use of the word to minimize the situation on the part of my colleagues and the bishops will not change reality at all," he said by email. "It will take years of good behavior to restore confidence," predicts the priest, who has just published Plus jamais ça! (Never again something like that!), Where he denounces the "Omertà" of the French Church on the abuse of minors.
The lack of trust in the Church is being translated into an unusual number of apostasy demands. The Church says that it does not carry the total count. However, several dioceses have recognized a much greater demand than in other years. Especially in March, when in addition to the sentence to Barbarin the film was released Thank God about that scandal, it was published in France Sodom, a book about homosexuality in the Church, and the Paris prosecutor's office opened an investigation into alleged "sexual aggressions" against the apostolic nuncio.
According to Franceinfo, the Diocese of Lyon is receiving two apostasy demands a day, more than ten times higher than usual. In Paris, in March they were a fortnight, four times more. There has also been an increase in the Norman diocese of Coutances-Avranches, while the bishopric of Strasbourg has indicated that of 50 apostasy demands in 2017, they doubled in 2018 and, so far this year, they are now in their thirties.
The flow does not seem to stop. Rémi Duval created the web in 2013 Apostasiepourtous, a generator of letters of apostasy that also clarifies the steps necessary to complete the process. Normally, it counts from Marseille, they receive about one hundred visits per day. "But for one or two weeks, after the Pope rejected the resignation of Barbarin, we have around a thousand every day."
"People now make a distinction between faith, God, and the Catholic institution of the Church. They separate the two, "says Pierre-Emmanuel Germain-Thil, one of the victims of Lyon and a member of the Liberated Word. Since the premiere of Thank God, one of whose protagonists is inspired by him, participates in debates after the screening of the film. Ensures that "many people are very angry. Many tell me they want to apostatize. "
How to stop this hemorrhage? For priest Vignon, a "credible" and quick action is required, both in France and in the Vatican. "Although the principle of zero tolerance is already accepted by abusers, it is still not accepted by those who have covered up abuses. While this continues, the Church will not be credible: they will reproach the hierarchy that protects them, "he warns.
The refusal of Pope Francis to accept the resignation of Cardinal Barbarin has also caused a stir in the Diocese of Lyon. Ten days after the announcement of the Vatican, an internal vote in the diocese resolved practically unanimously – 48 votes out of 50 – the "fast and definitive" march of Barbarin "to be able to turn the page in our diocese," said the vicar general and substitute temporary of Barbarin, Yves Baumgarten. The religious traveled last week to Rome to demand a "more perennial" solution, but he came back to face the refusal of the pope to allow the resignation of Barbarin until the process of appeal to justice has concluded.