French cardinal faces allegations of sexual abuse cover-up

French cardinal faces new allegations of having promoted sexual abuse-sentenced priest

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Roman Catholic Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, answers journalists' question during the Conference of Bishops of France held at the Saint Bernadette hemicycle in Lourdes, southwestern France, on March 15, 2016. [AFP]

A French cardinal faces new allegations on Wednesday due to promoting a cleric who has been previously sentenced for sexually abusing adult students.

A French daily newspaper said that Archbishop of Lyon Philippe Barbarin had permitted an unnamed priest to get to work in his diocese in central France although the man had been charged with a suspended 18-month jail sentence due to sexually abusing students in a residential home that he supervised.

The episcopate declined the allegations, claiming the man had not been promoted, although it admitted he was still employed by the Lyon diocese.

The newspaper's allegations are likely to discomfort Barbarin, who called by Prime Minister Manuel Valls this week for “taking responsibility” in the case of another priest - Bernard Preynat.

Preynat was charged in January after victims came forward with claims he had sexually abused Scouts between 1986 and 1991. Prosecutors say he has admitted sexually abusing minors.

Barbarin, one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church in France, on Tuesday rejected accusations that he had covered up Preynat's acts, which were committed years before he became archbishop of Lyon in 2002.

A sign on the door of the Immaculee Conception Church reads "Mass for this week have been cancelled" in Lyon, eastern France, on March 15, 2016. [AFP]

The new accusations relate to the period between 2007 and 2009. The unnamed priest was condemned by a court in the southwest town of Rodez. He was then moved to the Lyon diocese before being promoted by Barbarin to dean in 2013 although he was in charge of several parishes.

When the newspaper asked a source close to Barbarin if the cardinal had been aware of the man's conviction, the source replied: "He does not want to reply to that question."

The spokesman for France's bishops, Olivier Ribadeau-Dumas, said the case had "nothing to do" with the sexual abuse of children and denied Barbarin had promoted the priest.

"He was not promoted. Today he has responsibilities for training in the Lyon diocese... but he has no contact with young people and the diocese has always been vigilant of this," the spokesman said.

"This is a case of priest who was sentenced to 18 months in prison suspended for inappropriate touching of adults. It is in no way paedophilia," he said.

"This case has nothing to do with, and is in no way comparable to, that of Father Preynat."

TRTWorld and agencies