Lyon, France, Jan 15, 2020 / 19:01 pm
Bernard Preynat, a former priest of the Archdiocese of Lyon, is on trial before a civil court in France. He has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of minors between 1971 and 1991; he was found guilty by an ecclesiastical tribunal last year.
Allegations against Preynat, 74, became public in 2015. Prosecutors dropped the case the following year after an initial investigation, but a victims’ group with more than 80 members who say they were abused by Preynat led to a reopening of the case.
Preynat led a scouting camp until 1991, when parents accused him of abuse to the Lyon-Vienne archdiocese. He was then banned from leading scouting groups, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon in 2015.
Cardinal Barbarin was convicted by a French civil court in March 2019 on charges of failing to report the allegations against Preynat.
An ecclesiastical trial against Preynat was opened in August 2018, and he was convicted in July 2019 of committing delicts of a sexual character against minors under the age of 16. He was sentenced to dismissal from the clerical state.
“In view of the facts and their recurrence, the large number of victims, the fact that Father Bernard Preynat abused the authority conferred on him by his position within the scout group that he had founded and which he led since its creation, assuming the dual responsibility of head and chaplain, the tribunal decided to apply the maximum penalty provided for by the law of the Church, namely dismissal from the clerical state,” the Lyon archdiocese stated July 4, 2019.
At his civil trial in Lyon Jan. 14, Preynat acknowledged “caressing” boys, saying, “it could be four or five children a week.”
“I have heard the suffering of these people, which I'm guilty of causing,” he said. “I hope that this trial can take place as quickly as possible.”