Cardinal on Vatican sex abuse committee a child abuser

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, 78, admitted Monday to sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago when he was a parish priest in France.

Cardinal Ricard is a member of the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith; the department charged with investigating abuse cases in the Catholic Church.

“I have decided not to remain silent about my situation and to place myself at the disposal of justice, both on the level of society and on that of the Church,” the cardinal said in a letter.

“Thirty-five years ago, when I was a parish priest I behaved reprehensibly with a young 14-year-old girl. My behaviour has necessarily caused serious and lasting consequences for this person,” the letter added.

The letter was read aloud by the French Bishops’ Conference president at a press conference.

Ricard also apologised to the young girl and her family, as well as all those who will be impacted by the revelation.

In light of this situation, Ricard said he will be “taking a time to retire and pray”.

According to La Croix the woman abused by Ricard has twice written to Pope Francis, most recently in May-June, but has not had a reply.

No civil complaint has yet been filed against Ricard; however, on Tuesday, a preliminary civil investigation into Ricard’s abusive behaviour was opened after a letter was received from an adviser of the current bishop of Nice.

The Catholic Church in France has been under fire since a 2021 report estimated that 330,000 children were abused by clergy in the country in a span of 70 years.

Ricard’s revelations came as “a shock” to the French episcopacy, as he is among 11 French bishops currently under investigation for sexual abuse.

During a press conference on a plane, while returning from Bahrain, where he had been promoting dialogue with Islam, Francis said child abuse inside the Church was a “tragic thing”, and the Catholic church is working “as best we can” to fight clerical child abuse.

Francis admitted are shortfalls.

“We are working as best we can, but there are people within the Church who don’t see it clearly,” Francis said.

Francis has enacted a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, enforcing the mandatory reporting of abuse to authorities and making sexual abuse a criminal offence at the Vatican.

Only three cardinals have been officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church for sexual abuse.

In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër stepped down as Archbishop of Vienna following numerous reports of sexual abuse but never underwent a canonical trial.

Benedict prohibited Cardinal Keith O’Brien from participating in the 2013 conclave due to abuse allegations; two years later, Francis stripped O’Brien of his cardinal rights.

In 2019, Francis defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of abusing minors and seminarians.

Ricard, who headed the archdiocese of Bordeaux between 2001 and 2019, headed the French Bishops’ Conference from 2001 to 2007.

He has occupied a number of important roles at the Vatican under Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. And as well as his role in the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was appointed by Francis to the Council of Economic Affairs in 2014 and served there until 2019.


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