Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard surprisingly admits to having sexually abused a 14-year-old decades ago. The French judiciary has now started investigations. After the crime became known, "anger and dismay prevailed," according to the Catholic newspaper "La Croix".
A day after a French cardinal surprisingly accused himself of sexually abusing a 14-year-old decades ago, the French judiciary has opened preliminary investigations. So far, there have been no criminal charges, said prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille. It should be determined not only whether a crime has occurred, but also whether there are other victims.
The case of 78-year-old Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard triggered a new shockwave in the Catholic Church in France. "There is anger and dismay," said an editorial in the Catholic newspaper "La Croix". The cardinal admitted in a publicly read letter that he had molested a young person 35 years ago. The diocese of Marseille, where Ricard was working at the time of the crime, called on other potential victims or witnesses of abuse to come forward.
Details of the alleged abuse of the 14-year-old were not initially known. The case may be statute-barred under civil law, which expires 30 years after the victim's majority. According to the French bishops' conference, a total of eleven incumbent and former bishops are now being targeted by the state or church judiciary. Eight cases concern allegations of abuse, the others concern failure to report suspected abuse, with one of the bishops already deceased.
Ricard is the fourth member of the College of Cardinals responsible for the election of the Pope who has been charged with the sexual abuse of minors. As Bishop of Bordeaux from 2001 to 2007, he was also Chairman of the French Bishops' Conference. Since 2002 he has also been a member of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible, among other things, for dealing with cases of abuse. In 2019, Ricard submitted his resignation for reasons of age and retired to a vicarage in southern France. Recently, the case of the former bishop of Creteil, Michel Santier, caused a stir in France. In mid-October it became known that the Vatican had tacitly sanctioned him for voyeurism.
Public health reasons were given for his resignation. "Now there is really no doubt that the abuse in the Church is systematic," the La Croix editorial said. The church closed its eyes, the believers felt betrayed. According to estimates by a commission of inquiry, around 330,000 minors have been sexually abused by priests, religious or employees of Catholic institutions in France since 1950.