French court convicts priest and retired bishop

Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d'Orléans, France. Credit: Shutterstock
Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d'Orléans, France. Credit: Shutterstock

.- A French court has sentenced a priest to two years in prison, with a third year suspended, for the sexual abuse of minors. At the same time, the court also handed down a suspended sentence against his former bishop for failing to report an allegation against the priest to civil authorities.

 

Pierre de Castelet, a retired priest of the diocese of Orléans, was convicted Nov. 22 of sexually abusing several boys under the age of 15 at a summer camp in 1993. One of his victims, Olivier Savignac, came forward to complain to the diocese in 2010, writing a letter to the then-bishop, André Fort. Bishop Fort assured Savignac that de Castelet would be kept from contact with minors but did not forward the complaint to civil authorities.

 

The court found Fort guilty of failing to report the allegation, handing down a suspended sentence of eight months. Fort retired as bishop of Orléans in 2010. The following year, Savignac repeated the allegation to his successor, Bishop Jacques Blaquart, who informed local police.

 

As part of the sentence, de Castelet is barred from working as a priest or having contact with minors. He is also required to register on a national list of sex offenders and receive psychiatric treatment.

 

During the course of the trial, de Castelet admitted to “an emotional attraction for boys aged 11-13” but said that he “did not realize the harm that it could do them.” De Castelet was found guilty of groping several boys under the pretext of “medical examinations.”

 

Three victims were awarded 16,000 euros ($18,100) each in damages.

 

The priest, who was removed from active ministry by Blaquart, told investigators that he was “alone against the world” in dealing with his attraction to young boys, and complained of a lack of support from Church authorities.

 

De Castelet also gave evidence to the court concerning his "loneliness" and added that Church authorities were aware of his disposition and actions as early as 1993. While it was suggested that several bishops and other chancery authorities were aware of de Castelet’s actions, the charge against Fort for failing to report an accusation of child sexual abuse made him the only one not excluded from prosecution by the statute of limitations.

 

Fort said that he was unaware of his legal obligation to forward the accusations to civil authorities and that he believed M. Savignac had only wanted to be reassured that de Castelet would be kept from future contact with minors.

 

In October, a French court in Lyon attempted to compel testimony from Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in an ongoing case against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and six other officials of the Archdiocese of Lyon, who are being prosecuted for allegedly failing to report accusations of abuse by a priest to the police.

 

In that case, the Holy See cited sovereign immunity, noting that Cardinal Ladaria was a serving government minister of Vatican City State.