French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, an arch-conservative who took over as archbishop in Lyon in 2002, met on Monday with Pope Francis after having been convicted by a French court of failing to report a known paedophile priest to police.
The 82-year-old Barbarin is the most senior French cleric caught up in the global paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. He said after his March 7 conviction that he would travel to Rome to tender his resignation. Barbarin has added he will resign after becoming the latest high-ranking churchman to fall in the global reckoning over clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. He was scheduled for an audience with Pope Francis Monday morning.
A court in Lyon ruled March 7 that Barbarin had an obligation to report the Rev. Bernard Preynat to civil authorities, and gave the cardinal a six-month suspended prison sentence. His trial comes as the pontiff battles to restore faith in the Church following a slew of abuse scandals that have spanned the globe, from Australia to Chile and the United States. However, the most recent Rome summit didn’t restore any faith in the Roman Catholic Church, indeed.
Rev. Bernard Preynat is scheduled to be tried on sexual violence charges next year. The clergyman has confessed to abusing Boy Scouts in the 1970s and 1980s.
Meanwhile, Barbarin’s conviction deepens the crisis facing the Catholic Church’s embattled hierarchy. Cardinal Barbarin was an outspoken opponent of gay marriage. He had long been accused by victims’ groups in Lyon of turning a blind eye to child abuse in his diocese, which blighted dozens of lives. Barbarin’s position is traditional for similar cases, cardinal insists he cannot see what he is guilty of. At the French court, he told the judge at the start of the trial in January: “I never tried to hide, let alone cover up, these horrible facts.”