21 November 2022, The Tablet

Another retired French bishop admits to hiding past sexual abuse

Another retired French bishop admits to hiding past sexual abuse

Retired French Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet of Strasbourg in a 2009 file photo.
CNS photo/Charles Platiau, Reuters

Another retired French archbishop has admitted to past sexual abuse and a parish priest was sidelined after his abuse case came to light. The fallout from recent revelations of past sexual abuse by a cardinal and a bishop continues to torment the French Catholic Church. 

Former Strasbourg Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet, 81, admitted making “inappropriate gestures” to an adult woman in the past and now faces civil and canonical inquiries. The woman, prompted by calls for victims to come forward, informed French police during the summer.

Grallet was one of the three unnamed prelates Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the bishops conference, referred to early this month when he said 11 French bishops were convicted, indicted or suspected of committing or condoning sexual abuse. 

Moulins-Beaufort, who last year apologised for an estimated 330,000 sexual abuse cases by clerics and Church workers since 1950 and encouraged victims to speak up, had urged the three prelates to admit their misdeeds “so the truth comes out”. 

In the case of Fr Pierre Cabarat of Blois diocese, police dropped his sexual abuse case with a minor because it was beyond the statute of limitations. But Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut, saying that was not “a not guilty verdict”, suspended him and asked the Vatican for a canonical trial.  

In a further blow for the Church, an auxiliary bishop-to-be quit 40 days after his nomination The case last week highlighted another challenge for the Church – the reluctance to take on the role of bishop. Fr Ivan Brient withdrew his consent to becoming auxiliary bishop of Rennes after 40 days, saying he was burned out and had agreed to the nomination too quickly. 

In his letter to Pope Francis, he said he was withdrawing “with regret, because I feel I am abandoning you … turning back before even getting to know you”.

The wave of abuse revelations comes ten years after massive protest marches against a proposed gay marriage law made these conservative Catholics a key factor in French politics. Its organisers later rallied to back François Fillon as the leading conservative candidate for the French presidential election in 2017.  

All that has faded away, several look-back analyses in the press noted. The sexual abuse scandal then undercut any remaining credibility the bishops had. 

“These scandals put an end to all this rhetoric about (the Church as) an embattled citadel,” sociologist Céline Béraud told Le Monde. “The scandals show the questions of gender and sexuality are internal, within the Church, as well.”

Famille Chretienne, a conservative Catholic magazine, even published an article with suggestions on how parents can explain the sexual abuse crisis to their children and recognise if their offspring are themselves victims. 


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