VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, a member of the Vatican division charged with sanctioning abuse instances within the Catholic Church, admitted in an announcement on Monday (Nov. 7) to sexually abusing a 14-year-old woman 35 years in the past when he was a parish priest in his native France.
“I’ve determined to not stay silent about my state of affairs and to put myself on the disposal of justice, each on the extent of society and on that of the Church,” the cardinal mentioned in a letter learn by the president of the French Bishops’ Convention, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, at a press convention.
“Thirty-five years in the past, once I was a parish priest I behaved reprehensibly with a younger 14-year-old woman. My conduct has essentially triggered critical and lasting penalties for this individual,” the letter added.
Ricard mentioned he apologized to the younger woman and her household in addition to all those that will likely be impacted by the revelation. The cardinal added that in gentle of this case he will likely be “taking a time to retire and pray.”
Ricard, who headed the archdiocese of Bordeaux between 2001 and 2019, headed the French Bishops’ Convention from 2001 to 2007. He has occupied a lot of necessary roles on the Vatican below Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He was appointed by Francis to the Council of Financial Affairs in 2014 and served till 2019.
He’s at the moment a member of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Religion, which, in addition to overseeing doctrinal issues, is charged with investigating clergy abuse instances within the church.
French bishops are at the moment assembly for his or her fall common meeting in Lourdes, which has been reorganized to deal with the abuse disaster within the nation.
The Catholic Church in France has been below fireplace since a 2021 report estimated that 330,000 kids had been abused by clergy within the nation in a span of 70 years. Ricard is amongst 11 clergy members, together with former Bishop Michel Santier of Créteil, who’re at the moment below investigation for sexual abuse.
Beaufort informed reporters that among the many accused, six had been bishops and one is deceased. The archbishop mentioned that Ricard’s revelations got here as “a shock” to the French episcopacy.
The Vatican introduced that Santier was retiring in 2021 for well being causes, however the diocese of Créteil admitted that the bishop had been accused of sexual abuse within the Nineties. The Vatican didn’t reply to a request for remark.
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Requested concerning the clerical abuse state of affairs in France on his return flight from Bahrain on Sunday (Nov. 6), Francis underlined that abuse is a widespread phenomenon that for probably the most half takes place within the household and neighborhood. The pope added that the tendency to cowl up abuse within the church has modified.
“On this awakening, making investigations and transferring forward with accusations, all the pieces has not at all times (and all over the place) been the identical, some issues have been hidden,” Francis mentioned. “That’s the reason we shouldn’t be stunned that instances like this come to gentle.”
“It’s a course of that we’re enterprise, and we’re carrying it out with braveness, and never everybody has braveness; typically there may be the temptation to compromise, and we’re additionally all slaves to our sins, however the will of the church is to make clear all the pieces,” he mentioned.
Francis has enacted a “zero tolerance” coverage for sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, implementing the necessary reporting of abuse to authorities and making sexual abuse a legal offense on the Vatican.
Solely three cardinals have been formally sanctioned by the Catholic Church for sexual abuse. In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër stepped down as Archbishop of Vienna following quite a few experiences of sexual abuse however by no means underwent a canonical trial. Benedict prohibited Cardinal Keith O’Brien from collaborating within the 2013 conclave as a consequence of abuse allegations; two years later, Francis stripped O’Brien of his cardinal rights.
In 2019, Francis defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a Vatican investigation discovered him responsible of abusing minors and seminarians.
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