How far does the 'zero tolerance' against abuses decreed by the Pope? The Holy See has appealed to diplomatic immunity to refuse the request of the French Justice, who wanted to question the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Spanish Jesuit Luis Francisco Ladaria.
Ladaria had been cited as a witness by the court in the case against French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, accused of not having reported the sexual abuse of a priest of his diocese -Bernard Preynat- to young boy scouts between 1986 and 1991. A real predator who violated at least 80 minors, and that in 2014 recognized the abuses.
However, in 2015, according to the investigation, the archbishop of Lyon would have consulted with the today prefect of the Holy Office on how to proceed in the face of denunciations against the priests of his diocese. In a letter, the cardinal advised him to "take appropriate disciplinary measures but avoid public scandal." This is: "Do not go to court," according to the victims' lawyers.
The hearing was due to be held last April, but the court postponed it to January 2019 to give time to notify the summons to Ladaria, which was carried out, as required, by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A few weeks ago, and through a 'verbal note', the Secretary of State announced that the Jesuit would not attend his appointment with the French courts.
"The Holy See recalls the principle of functional immunity that international law recognizes public officials for acts committed on behalf of a sovereign body," explains the Vatican secretariat of State in its response to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The Vatican court considered the petition unacceptable and stated that it would not proceed with the notification of the summons," the French Foreign Ministry sent the court. In spite of the refusal, the Justice maintains the date of the trial, of which Barbarin will not be able to escape, considered one of the "papables" in case Francisco dies or resigns to its position.
"It is crucial that (Ladaria) explain why he ordered the archbishop to hide the cases," said François Davaux, president of "La parole liberée", an association of pedophile victims in the diocese of Lyon that managed to reopen the case, dismissed in 2016 to be considered prescribed, despite the fact that the religious admitted the abuses.
For Davaux, the fact that Ladaria "flee from justice" shows that "the Vatican fears that the courts will consider them guilty of having covered cases of pedophilia for years." "They have created a system that protects pedophilia and there is a State that protects that system," he complains.
The situation has reached such a point that a priest of the Diocese of Lyon, Pierre Vignon, has opened a petition on Change.org to urge Barbarin to resign his position for failing to report cases of pedophilia. The petition already has 105,000 signatures, and requires the cardinal to present his resignation to the Pope "for dignity and justice."
However, it does not look like it will be like that. In fact, in 2015, Barbarin himself claimed to have traveled to Rome to discuss his possible resignation with Francisco. According to his auxiliary bishop, Emmanuel Gobilliard, "he was very clear, but the Pope said no, and we can not say that Pope Francis prevaricates on this issue."
Finally, the spokesman of the Confederation of Bishops of France, Olivier Ribadeau-Dumas, assured that there is no "law of silence" in the Church against cases of pedophilia involving priests. In the last month, two priests accused of abusing minors have committed suicide in the French country.
The only thing that remains clear, however, is that the head of the fight against pedophilia in the Church, Cardinal Ladaria, will not go to court to clarify the cover-ups that denounce at least 80 victims of sexual abuse.