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French priest gets 5-year jail term for sex assault of boy scouts

March 16, 2020 05:45 PM


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A defrocked Catholic priest was given a five-year jail term Monday for sexually abusing boy scouts in his care several decades ago, a case that roiled the French Church over claims he was shielded from prosecution by his superiors.

Bernard Preynat, 75, had confessed at his trial in January in the southeastern city of Lyon to "caresses" he knew were forbidden after victims testified of the abuses they suffered at his hands.

The accusers were aged seven to 14 when the alleged crimes were committed between 1971 and 1991, when Preynat was a scout leader in Lyon. The five-year term was less than the eight years sought by prosecutors, who accused the ex-priest of "shattering" his victims' lives and profiting from the silence of both parents and the Church hierarchy.

Victims' groups had long accused Preynat's superior, Philippe Barbarin, of covering up the abuse, making him the most senior French priest to be caught up in the global clerical paedophilia scandal in recent years.

Barbarin, a staunch conservative who became archbishop of Lyon in 2002, was originally handed a six-month suspended sentence in March 2019 for not reporting Preynat's crimes. But in January, an appeals court overturned the conviction, saying that while Barbarin should have informed the authorities, he was not criminally liable for his lack of action. Pope Francis accepted Barbarin's resignation this month.

 



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