Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the head of Vatican, refused to accept the resignation tendered by the French cardinal who was convicted of covering up the sexual abuse committed by a priest under his watch.
Instead, he said that he is just going away for a while and step aside temporarily for the good of the archdiocese and he is just following the guidance of the Holy See.
French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon came to Pope Francis on March 18 to hand his resignation after he was convicted by a French court of covering up a sexual abuse case and gave him a six-month suspended sentence for the said crime.
According to a statement published by the Archdiocese of Lyon on March 19, Pope Francis did not accept the resignation request of the cardinal citing “presumption of interest.” An appeal to the decision handed by a French court on March 7 has been filed by the lawyers of the cardinal to overturn the said conviction.
The cardinal’s decision to temporarily vacate his post in the Archdiocese of Lyon follows the guidance of Pope Francis who said that he should do whatever he felt necessary for the good of the archdiocese.
“At his suggestion and because the church of Lyon has been suffering for three years, I decided to step away for a while and leave the leadership of the diocese to the vicar general,” Barbarin said.
The press office of the Vatican, through its interim director Alessandro Gisotti, confirmed the meeting that took place between the Pope and cardinal Barbarin. He added that Pope Francis wants to highlight that his heart goes to the victims of abuse and the faithful of the said archdiocese.
“The Holy See wants to reiterate its closeness to the victims of abuse, to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Lyon and to the entire church in France, which is living through a particularly difficult moment,” said Gisotti.
The case of Cardinal Barbarin is one of the many cases of cover-up and clergy sexual abuse that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church in the past few decades. On late February, Pope Francis called for an unprecedented summit in the Vatican to resolve the issues of sexual abuse amongst priests and members of the clergy. At the end of the summit, the attendees were able to discuss several measures to resolve the problem, but it was reported that they have not come up with a vote.
The court found Barbarin guilty of covering up the crimes committed by Father Bernard Preynat at Lyon’s Saint-Luc Parish, where the priest ran a large Catholic scout group from the 1970s to 1980s. While Barbarin was not head of the Archdiocese of Lyon when the alleged abuses happened until 2002, it was reported that he knew about the incident since 2010 and failed to report them.
Although in 2015, Barbarin suspended the disgraced priest and he was charged in 2016 with sexual abuse and is now awaiting trial, the cardinal was still convicted of covering up the said events.
It seems like Pope Francis is exceptionally kind to high ranking cardinals and bishops who are known to have covered up sexual abuse cases in their turf.
In 2010, three bishops in Chile were also accused of covering a priest’s sexual abuse. The Vatican said that there was no evidence against the three. The case was centered on Father Fernando Karadima who has had multiple allegations of sexual assault and rape. The Vatican launched an investigation against the priest and found him guilty.
However, in a shocking turn of events, the Vatican only sentenced the priest with a life of penance and prayers. The Chile government could not prosecute the priest because of the stature of limitation but has since stood on its open of his guilt.
Bishop Juan Barros, one of the three priests who was accused of covering up Karadima’s crimes, was promoted from being a military bishop to the Diocese of Osorno.
The promotion was not taken well by critics and have protested against it. Pope Francis accused the critics of being ‘politically manipulated by leftists.’
The Papal Nuncio recommended the cancelation of Barros’ promotion, but through an embarrassing letter, Pope Francis went on to officialize the promotion. /apr