"The victims trusted a Church that lied to them" | Society

The indictment against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and five other senior officials of the diocese of Lyon for not reporting the abuses of priest Bernard Preynat and keeping him in office claimed Wednesday the condemnation of representatives of a "dysfunctional" and "liar" institution, who preferred to protect herself and not the victims who asked her to help protect other children from a recognized sexual predator. The trial against Cardinal Barbarin, the highest official in the church hierarchy accused of silencing cases of pedophile cures, began on Monday.

Barbarin's defense will rebut the accusations tomorrow, Thursday, as did the defenders of the first defendants, including a bishop and an archbishop. It will be reinforced by the announcement of the prosecution that does not support the charges of the private prosecution that initiated this process. Although it was an expected decision - already filed the first lawsuit in 2016 - lawyers and victims did not hide a certain "disappointment", although they stressed that the decision is in the hands of the correctional court that should study the case after the end of hearings this Thursday .

"For the victims was a shock realize that the priest was still in contact with children, it was a shock understand that the Church, in which they had trusted, lied to them, and was a shock to feel guilty for not having acted before, "the victims' attorney Nadia Debbache summed up the final arguments of the trial. "The institution of the Church did not know how to protect children and did not inform the judicial authorities," he said.

For two days, the lawyers of the nine victims that make up the private accusation - all suffered abuses by Preynat before 1990, when they were part of the group scout directed by the priest in a parish of Lyon- They sought to expose the "dysfunctions" of an institution which, they claimed, failed at all levels, from the pastor directly in charge of Preynat or the designated liaison with the victims to the highest official, Barbarin.

The complainants have acknowledged that their main intention in laying a cardinal to the dock is to alert the "omerta" in the Church about pedophilia and prevent new victims in the future from sexual predatory priests. Formally, however, the main accusation is for not having denounced Preynat to justice despite knowing that he abused minors, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. The prosecution, which barely intervened in a process initiated by "direct summons", which in France allows the victim, under certain conditions, to go directly to the court, announced that he will not request "any conviction against anyone." The decision is because there are no new elements from the file of the first report in 2016 after declaring the facts prescribed. Nor did he consider that there was an "intention to obstruct justice" on the part of Barbarin and the other defendants.

"The file is exactly in the same stadium as it was in 2016, when the prosecution considered that there were not enough incriminating elements to even send the case to a court. I believe that this court will give the same result, in any case I hope so, "said one of Barbarin's lawyers, Jean-Félix Luciani, after the decision.

The private accusation opposes to the arguments on the prescription of defense and prosecution the principle of "continuity" of this type of crimes, which would have forced those responsible to denounce the pedophile priest for years. "If I find out on Monday that a child has been abused, I must report it on Monday. But if for some reason I do not, the obligation is the same on Tuesday, Wednesday, the following Monday or 20 years later, "explained lawyer Jean Boudot.

A "liar" cardinal

And Barbarin knew of the danger of Preynat, the accusation says. "There is no doubt (Barbarin) that he had a true knowledge of the facts," said lawyer Emmanuelle Haziza. And he knew them well before the date of 2014 - when one of the victims, Alexandre Hezez, detailed the abuses suffered in an email that happened to remit to Rome - that he has alleged during the trial, Boudot said, that he did not flinch. by describing Barbarin as a "liar".

"Cardinal, you are a liar when you say that only in 2014 did you understand the seriousness" of Preynat's sexual depredation, he accused. And in any case, he added, "a sexual assault on a child is always serious"

The ninth empty chair

The men who accuse those in charge of the diocese of Lyon of protecting a pedophile priest are nine, but only eight listened on Monday, on the first day of the trial, to Cardinal Philippe Barbarin insisting that he did what Rome told him to do. and that he saw no fault in his performance. Only eight, too, counted on Tuesday, in horrifying stories interrupted at times by sobs or sighs drowned, how the priest Bernard Preynat, when they were nine, ten or 12 years old, kissed them, hugged them, made them or forced them to make him blowjobs or masturbate. And how those abuses have marked, to a large extent, his adult life. But on the day of the final arguments of the defense of the victims, after the lunch break, the last chair appeared, finally, occupied. A decision that, according to the lawyer of that ninth applicant, Elsa Loizzo, was not easy for a victim of pedophilia who until this very day had not revealed to anyone in her environment what a priest did to her almost 40 years ago. "At this moment when I speak to you, your partner, with whom you have been 11 years, only knows what happened to him a few hours ago," explained Loizzo. "This morning she first told him that she was 'going somewhere', but she ended up calling her on the phone to tell her that she is one of the victims" of Preynat. One more sample, he stressed, of the psychological damage caused by the pedophile priest and those who hid or did not report his crimes.


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