11 French bishops indicted over charges of sexual assault
The French bishops are currently meeting in Lourdes for their fall plenary session and will be discussing ways to improve transparency toward the clergy.
A church body announced on Monday that eleven French bishops have been indicted for committing acts of sexual violence. This includes an important figure in the Church of France, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who admitted to sexually assaulting a minor 35 years ago.
According to the president of the Bishops' Conference of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, Cardinal Ricard, who was archbishop of Bordeaux from 2001 to 2019 and who became cardinal in 2006, admitted to the reprehensible crime of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old, adding that all the suspects involved in the charges will either face disciplinary procedures from the Church or legal prosecution.
According to Catholic News Services, Ricard said he asked the woman for forgiveness and asked for forgiveness from her family. He also said he was going on retreat to pray.
“This is a difficult process. But what comes first is the suffering experienced by the victims and the recognition of the acts committed,” he said.
“Finally, I ask forgiveness to those whom I have hurt and who will live this news as a real test,” he said.
The cardinal did not provide additional details.
The French bishops are currently meeting in Lourdes for their fall plenary session and will be discussing ways to improve transparency towards the clergy.
In 2021, a study revealed that abuse of minors was alarmingly widespread among priests, deacons, and lay members of the Church from the 1950s onwards.
The report further revealed that the Catholic clergy in France sexually abused an estimated 216,000 minors over the past seven decades, a number that climbed to 330,000 when claims against lay members of the Church were included, such as teachers at Catholic schools.
It condemned the Church for prioritizing the protection of the institution over victims and called on the Church to pay compensations.
Ricard retired as bishop of Bordeaux in 2019, but he remains a cardinal, a position usually held for life.