French high court clears cardinal of abuse cover-up claims

LYON, France (AP) — France’s highest court confirmed on Wednesday that the former archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, did not cover up the sexual abuse of minors by a predator priest.

The ruling by the Court of Cassation closes a long, emotional drama that brought angst to the Roman Catholic Church, under scrutiny around the world for hiding abuse by its clergy.

The Court of Cassation agreed with an appeals court that ruled the nine victims who filed suit against Barbarin some five years ago could have directly filed a complaint against the now-defrocked priest, Bernard Preynat.

The victims, all then adults who were abused as children, took their case to the highest court after losing their appeal in January 2020. The appeals court in Lyon said it found no intent by Barbarin to cover up Preynat’s abuse.

Barbarin, who has since retired form his duties, was made aware of the years of abuse by Preynat in 2010.

Barbarin was initially convicted in March 2019 of failing to report the predator priest and handed a six-month suspended sentence.

Preynat acknowledged abusing more than 75 boys for decades. He was convicted in March 2020 of sexually abusing minors and given a five-year prison sentence. He was removed from the priesthood in 2019.

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