The former long-serving bishop of Bordeaux said today he had abused a 14-year-old girl in the past and was resigning from his functions as one of France’s six cardinals.
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, 78, made his public admission as French bishops gathered in Lourdes for their annual conference a year after the church was rocked by an inquiry that concluded that at least 330,000 boys and girls had been abused by clergy, church officers and teachers since the 1950s.
“Thirty-five years ago, when I was a parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a young girl aged 14. My behaviour has inevitably led to grave and lasting consequences for this person,” Ricard said in a statement.
Ricard, a Marseilles native who served as bishop of Bordeaux from 2001 to 2019 and for six years led the conference of bishops, the church’s governing body, asked for forgiveness and said he would withdraw from his official church activities. He would be available to legal and church investigators, he added.
Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the bishops’ conference, said Ricard is one of 11 bishops or former bishops who are under investigation for sexual abuse. All face possible prosecution or church disciplinary procedures, he said.
Also among the accused is Michel Santier, who left his post as bishop of Creteil, in the southern Paris suburbs, last year after admitting to Vatican officials that he had subjected two young men to voyeurism decades earlier.
The bishops in Lourdes are discussing how to restore the church’s credibility and ensure greater transparency in the way it deals with allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy. A year ago, the bishops’ conference said they accepted that the Catholic church bore an “institutional responsibility” in the thousands of child abuse cases documented in the report. The church owed a “duty of justice and reparation”, they said.
The church has begun paying compensation to victims. Last month, it said that over 1,000 victims have come forward with claims since its Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation was set up last year. More than 60 cases had been decided, with 45 of them including financial compensation ranging from €8,000 to €60,000.
Some victims’ organisations said the reparations are too slow and too low. Olivier Savignac, of the Speak and Revive group, said the “system is completely undersized … with very few human resources”. The church body has promised to speed up its work.News