Los Angeles Times

French cardinal says he abused girl, then 14

Prelate is withdrawin­g from duties over his behavior 35 years ago.


PARIS — Cardinal JeanPierre Ricard, one of France’s highest-ranking prelates of the Catholic Church, said Monday that he had abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago and is withdrawin­g from his religious duties.

The move comes after a report issued last year revealed a large number of child sex abuse cases within the French Catholic Church.

“Thirty-five years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensi­ble way with a young girl aged 14,” Ricard said in a written statement.

“My behavior has inevitably caused serious and lasting consequenc­es for this person,” he said.

Ricard, 78, used to be the archbishop of Bordeaux, in southweste­rn France, until he retired from that position in 2019 to serve in his home diocese of Dignes-les-Bains, in the south of the country. In the 1980s, he was a priest in the archdioces­e of Marseille.

The announceme­nt was made Monday at a news conference by the president of the French bishops conference, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort.

Moulins-Beaufort said a total of 11 bishops and former bishops, including Ricard, have been targeted by sex abuse accusation­s in diverse cases investigat­ed by French justice or church authoritie­s.

Ricard said he had talked to the victim and asked her for forgivenes­s, without specifying when. He said that through his statement, he was also asking for forgivenes­s “to all those I hurt.” He did not elaborate.

At a time when the French Catholic Church has just started to pay financial compensati­on to victims of child sexual abuse, Ricard said that he decided “not to stay silent anymore about [his] situation” and that he was available for the country’s justice and for church authoritie­s.

The broad study released last year by an independen­t commission estimated that about 330,000 children were sexually abused over 70 years by priests or other church-related figures in France.

The tally included an estimated 216,000 people abused by priests and other clerics, and the rest by church figures such as scout leaders and camp counselors. The estimates were based on broader scrutiny by France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research of sexual abuse of children.

The report described a “systemic” cover-up by church officials and urged the French Catholic Church to respect the rule of law.

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