French Cardinal Found Guilty of Covering Up Sexual Abuse by Priest

French Cardinal Found Guilty of Covering Up Sexual Abuse by Priest

In interviews and in court, Cardinal Barbarin said he had believed the priest and that he had sought advice from Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, who at the time was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican doctrinal watchdog that handles sexual abuse cases.

The Vatican refused to let Cardinal Ladaria testify despite a court summons. Plaintiffs had accused him of complicity after a 2015 letter showed that he had told Cardinal Barbarin to discipline Father Preynat and keep him away from children “while avoiding any public scandal.”

In a similar case in 2018, André Fort, the bishop of Orléans, a town in north-central France, was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence for failing to report sexual abuse by a priest under his purview.

During the cardinal’s trial, which began in January, church officials stressed that they had welcomed the opportunity to listen to the victims, acknowledging that they had sometimes failed to heed past warnings.

“Thank you for shaking up the church, because there are dysfunctions, there are difficulties, we need to change,” Emmanuel Gobilliard, a bishop in Lyon, said at the time. “At the diocese, we are here for people, not to defend ourselves.”

A movie about the case, “By the Grace of God,” directed by François Ozon, won the runner-up prize at the Berlin International Film Festival last month. The title refers to a 2016 news conference by Cardinal Barbarin during which he said, “Most of the facts, by the grace of God, are outside the statute of limitations.”

Father Preynat had filed a lawsuit trying to delay the film’s release in France last month, arguing that it was detrimental to his presumption of innocence ahead of his trial. But the lawsuit was dismissed, as was a second one by Régine Maire, a former employee of the Lyon Diocese who stood trial alongside the cardinal.

Ms. Maire wanted her name struck from the movie. She is portrayed by an actress but her full name is used, as are those of Cardinal Barbarin and Father Preynat, whereas the victims’ last names were changed.

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