The archdiocese of Lyon has compensated 14 victims of sexual predator Bernard Preynat, the ex-priest whose crimes have shaken the Church in France, because their cases were beyond the legal statute of limitations.
The payment, a first for the French church, came in December from a fund raised from contributions to a special appeal.The archdiocese said this amassed almost €170,000 from “targeted donors” but declined to give a breakdown of individual payments to the victims.
An ecclesial court recognised 21 former boy scouts as Preynat's victims between 1971 and 1991, but only seven cases were recent enough to be tried in civil court.
Those seven victims won their case in March 2020 but payments to them have been held up because Preynat, who admitted his guilt, initially appealed his five-year prison conviction before dropping it later in the year.
The archdiocese said the level of their compensation would be decided by a civil court. Since Preynat, 75, is penniless, those payments would likely also come from the archdiocese.
“May the Church keep her commitments of recognition and reparation right down to the end. For all the victims,” said Pierre-Emmanuel Germain-Thill, a plaintiff in the Preynat trial last year.
In another case linked to the scandal, the Court of Cassation is due to consider an appeal by Preynat victims next month for a civil case against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin for compensation.
This would not change the former Lyon archbishop’s acquittal in a criminal case last year for not denouncing Preynat to judicial authorities despite knowing of his crimes. But it could lead to a civil case against him in an appeals court.
If he lost that case and was ordered to pay damages, the decision would have a large symbolic importance no matter what sums he might have to pay. Victims initially filed for damages of more than €10,000 for each case.
Preynat’s continuation in ministry until 2015 was the main reason behind the shaming and eventual resignation of Barbarin as Lyon archbishop and Primate of the Gauls.
Archbishop Olivier de Germay, Barbarin’s successor installed in December, said it was time “to move on” from the scandal but added: “There is no question of ignoring the deep wounds experienced by these people.”