The International Association of Freethought demands that responsibles and accomplices to sexual crimes perpetrated by Catholic Church answer for their acts

Philippe BarbarinA French judge is investigating the “failure to report a crime” after the alleged victims of priest Bernard Preynat said top officials in the Catholic diocese of Lyon, including its Archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, had failed to report the priest to the police, as required under French law (the ommission of report is punished in France with 3 years’ imprisonment and a 45 000 € fine). It had known about the alleged crimes since 1991. The priest has admitted he sexually abused young Scouts in 1986-1991 in the group he had run for twenty years.

According to AFP, the Vatican had earlier given the cardinal its backing, saying it had confidence he would deal with the matter “with great responsibility”. A source close to the cardinal said “This comment does not in any way target Cardinal Barbarin who quite rightly suspended Father Preynat after meeting a first victim and taking advice from Rome, and this, even before a first official complaint was made.”

The Executive Director of the (UK) National Secular Society, Keith Porteous Wood, also one of the spoke persons of International Association of Freethought, which has studied clerical abuse for many years and given evidence at the United Nations, commented:

“I call on the investigating judge to make an example of the diocese and prosecute both the alleged perpetrator and those who believe they can flout the law with impunity.

“The Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors reiterated in mid-February that bishops had an obligation to ‘signal cases of sexual abuse to civil authorities’, but every announcement by the Pope on this is weaker than the one before. Last year the Pope announced a Church Tribunal (rather than law enforcement) to deal with such bishops, but this Tribunal has never met. On his recent return from Mexico, the Pope declared, even more weakly, that such bishops should resign – not even saying he would force them to do so.# The implicit support for Barbarin suggests that even pretensions that bishops should follow the law has been abandoned.”

In 2014 the United Nations castigated the Vatican for a Cardinal congratulating a French bishop for defying the law by refusing to report child abuse.

In most countries, such reporting is not mandatory, although the United Nations has recommended its introduction, for example in Ireland.