22 January 2020, The Tablet

Prosecutors request 8-year sentence for abusive priest

Prosecutors request 8-year sentence for abusive priest

Bernard Preynat attending his trial in Lyon, France on January 13, 2019.
Reynaud Julien/APS-Medias/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

French prosecutors have asked for an eight-year prison sentence for Bernard Preynat, the former Lyon priest who during his trial admitted to sometimes abusing four or five boys per week. 

The former priest, 74, also said he had told Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of his acts in 2010 in an exchange the then Lyon archbishop has claimed in court not to remember. Barbarin has stepped back from his post and is expected to be officially replaced after his appeal against a conviction for not denouncing Preynat is decided on 31 January.

The court set 16 March to announce its decision on Preynat, who spoke in detail but showed little remorse while testifying about the abuse cases that have haunted the French Church and led to Barbarin’s downfall.

During the trial last week, Preynat admitted to serial abuse, revealing it took place almost daily when he took boy scouts to summer camp. “For me, at the time, I wasn’t committing sexual aggressing, just caressing them,” he said.

“He talks about caresses. My wife caresses me. He touched me like a savage," one victim retorted. “I’m reliving all those sentiments, his smell,” said another victim, who had long suppressed the traumatic memory.

"I was wrong. The victims' accusations made me understand that," Preynat admitted. He said the Church hierarchy “ told me 'you're sick' ... they should have helped me ... they let me become a priest.” 

Many but not all of Preynat's abuse cases between 1971 and 1991 are now beyond the statute of limitations, including two rapes he admitted to during the trial.

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