Church Crimes and paedophilia: The Church must be accountable to the Justice of men!

A new week, A new Cardinal condemned. On 7th March, the highest official of the Catholic Church in France, the Archbishop of Lyon Philippe Barbarin, was condemned for not reporting the repeated sexual abuses committed by priests on 70 minors. Philippe Barbarin was sentenced to six months in prison with a suspended sentence. He will appeal, but nevertheless indicated his resignation to the pope.

In 2016, the charges had been abandoned by the prosecutor after the public intervention of Pope Francis.  The victims then took criminal proceedings. The French Libre Pensee Association and the (UK) National Secular Society had opposed the prosecutor’s decision to drop the lawsuits and to abandon the trial a little later by the Department of Justice.

The result of this trial is a huge victory for the victims, especially because they had little money, that a failure was widely predicted and because the Prosecutor had requested that Barbarin should not be prosecuted.

An earlier hearing was even abandoned because of the inability to translate a summons into Spanish! Many forces have conspired to prevent justice for the victims.

Philippe Barbarin had been informed of the abuses at least since 2010, the first complaint dating back to 1991, and had admitted that his reaction to these accusations had been “belated”. He had even attributed this to bad legal advice. An official Vatican dignitary had also advised him to “avoid… The public scandal” but – despite widespread criticism – avoided giving evidence by invoking immunity.

Philippe Barbarin‘s defence expressed surprise that the victims had reproached the church for not breaking the silence, rather than their parents or other adults who knew of the abuse, despite acknowledging that few parents were aware of the attacks.

One of the victims described the verdict as “a major victory for the protection of children…” A strong message… addressed to the church in France, the world and to Pope Francis. “This will greatly encourage people to talk.” The victims of Cardinal Pell, who was convicted for abuse last week in Australia, have now commenced civil proceedings as well.

The victims’ fight was described in a film that was screened in France, despite the fact that the trial of the alleged accused was not completed. The title “Thanks to God” is taken from a quotation by Philippe Barbarin: “The majority of the facts are beyond the statute of limitations, thanks to God.”

The facts have been established

The culprit has been identified.

A dignitary of the Catholic Church was convicted.

All the victims of the religious should now receive justice.


Keith Porteous Wood, president of the National Secular Society and spokesperson for the International Association of Free Thought said:

“The conviction of Barbarin, and last week that of the ultra-conservative Cardinal Pell in Australia for 5 cases of sexual abuse of minors, marked a turning point in the situation and the Pope would provoke further indignation if he refused to accept Barbarin‘s resignation.

“I hope that the question will be asked in this constitutionally secular country, France: Why was the prosecutor so anxious to avoid prosecution and conviction of Barbarin, when there was so much evidence?

“It should be noted, however, that the Barbarin trial could not take place in Britain since it does not have mandatory reporting – despite 80% of the countries having it in some form ( It is crucial that Britain legislates urgently to introduce this obligation to report known or suspected institutional sexual abuse of children, without exception for the confessional.”

The Royal Australian Commission found that on average it took 33 years for victims of abuse to make a claim and that the Barbarin and other trials also showed that the facts could be revealed decades after the victims became adults. The National Secular Society (of the United Kingdom) and the National Federation of French Freethought therefore believe that for criminal and civil cases for sexual violence, the prescription should be 50 years after the alleged acts and/or failure to report, or 30 years from when the abuse became known.

Libre Pensee recalls asking to be meet accompanied by Keith Porteous Wood the Senate information Mission, and the rapporteur on these issues to the UN Commission on human rights.  To date no response has been received to this request.


Lyon, 12 March 2019