A pedophilia scandal is engulfing the oldest Catholic institution in France / The Week

“Rarely have so few words cut so deeply into the hearts of so many.”

A miracle did not occur in Lourdes last week.

“Instead, on March 15, the French media descended on the pilgrimage site in southwestern France, which is hosting a conference of the country’s bishops. The journalists came to grill Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who, as bearer of the ancient title ‘primat des Gaules,’ is France’s most prominent Catholic cleric. As the cardinal of Lyon, France’s second largest city, he runs a diocese rocked by a series of sexual abuse scandals. (The diocese of Lyons is also the oldest Catholic institution in France, stretching back to the Gallo-Roman period.) With the cicada-like clatter of clicking cameras, Barbarin declared he had ‘never, never, never’ hid any act of pedophilia committed by his priests. Staring hard through his severe wire-rimmed glasses, Barbarin observed that none of these acts had happened under his watch. Besides, he noted, these crimes had passed the statute of limitations, so they could not be prosecuted.

‘Dieu merci,’ he added with a sigh.

Rarely have so few words cut so deeply into the hearts of so many. With what seemed greater concern over legal liabilities for the church than the emotional scars of the victims, Barbarin compounded his clergy’s sins of commission with a stunning sin of omission. The whole episode, since baptized the French ‘Spotlight,’ may well have consequences as seismic for the French church as the Boston case had for its American counterpart.

By Robert Zaretsky, The Week — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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