11 French bishops accused of sexual violence, announces church group

Eleven former or serving French bishops have been accused of sexual violence, including the former bishop of Bordeaux who has confessed to assaulting a minor 35 years ago, a senior church body announced on Monday.

11 French bishops accused of sexual violence, announces church group
Archbishop of Bordeaux Jean-Pierre Ricard (R) is one of the 11 bishops accused of sex attacks. Photo by MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP

Jean-Pierre Ricard, a long-standing bishop of Bordeaux who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, has admitted to a “reprehensible” act on a 14-year-old, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, told reporters.

All of the accused will face either prosecution or church disciplinary procedures, added de Moulins-Beaufort, the archbishop of north-eastern Reims.

French bishops are meeting in Lourdes in southwestern France for their autumn conference where they plan to discuss ways to improve their communication and transparency regarding historic sex crime allegations against the clergy.

The church was rocked last year by the findings of an inquiry that confirmed widespread abuse of minors by priests, deacons and lay members of the Church dating from the 1950s.

It found that 216,000 minors had been abused by clergy over the past seven decades, a number that climbed to 330,000 when claims against lay members of the Church are included, such as teachers at Catholic schools.

The commission that produced the report denounced the “systemic character” of efforts to shield clergy from prosecution, and urged the Church to pay compensation to victims.

Ricard retired as bishop of Bordeaux in 2019 but he remains a cardinal, a position usually held for life.

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France detains 80 in unprecedented child sex crime swoop

Police in France have arrested dozens of men accused of child sex abuse in the largest operation of its kind ever conducted.

France detains 80 in unprecedented child sex crime swoop

Around 80 men, including a local councillor and two schoolteachers, were detained this week in France’s most far-reaching swoop on suspected child sex abusers, police sources said.

Police made arrests in 53 of France’s 101 departments, Commissioner Quentin Bevan told AFP on Saturday.

The men arrested, whose ages range from around 30 to over 60, come from a wide range of backgrounds, from an elected official to a person on the dole.

“There is no typical profile in child sex crime. It’s found in all walks of life,” Bevan said.

He heads the operational unit of the Office for Minors within the judicial police, which coordinated the operation.

The “unprecedented” swoop focused on professions where adults were in regular contact with children, the commissioner explained.

That enabled them to detain, among others, two teachers, several sports coaches and a monitor in a centre for disabled children.

One of the teachers possessed “photos and videos stolen from his pupils” and is suspected of sexually assaulting at least one of them, Bevan said. Around a dozen others are suspected of raping or sexually abusing minors.

The monitor in the centre for the disabled had been convicted of rape “several decades ago” but had been permitted to change his identity, which enabled him to have contact with children again, Bevan said.

“Online child sex abuse is not just about lone individuals trawling the internet… (Some) have gone on to commit crimes in real life or are on the verge of doing so,” he added.

“We’re not just talking about virtual images,” Martine Brousse, head of the Voice of the Child organisation, told BFM television.

“Vulnerable children have been raped and many have suffered acts of torture and barbarity.”

Police searches uncovered “more than 100,000” videos and photos on computers or hard drives.

Some were “extremely violent” and included “sexual acts on babies or children being sexually abused by animals”, Bevan said.

“It’s the worst kind of vile,” he said.

All the suspects admitted the facts presented to them while in police custody, although some tried to downplay them or deny responsibility. Some were in the process of destroying their computers with hammers when police arrived, Bevan said.

Of the total, 51 men have appeared in court, of whom 13 have been jailed. Another 38 are under court supervision. The remainder have been released pending further examination of the evidence. The interior ministry said investigations were continuing.