Government prosecutors disclosed Tuesday that they are beginning an investigation into a former French cardinal who admitted to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female victim while still a priest.
According to an AP News report, retired French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard told the public that he committed “reprehensible” acts with the teenage victim in the 1980s.
Details of the Alleged Sex Abuse
The report noted that 78-year-old Ricard confessed through a message during a bishops’ conference.
“35 years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way toward a girl of 14. My behavior has inevitably caused serious and lasting consequences for this person,” AP News quoted the former French Cardinal saying.
Ricard was among the 11 high-ranking retired and active Catholic prelates charged with sexual abuse based on the French Catholic Church’s statement on Monday.
According to state prosecutor Dominique Laurens, they have kickstarted an inquiry to check the truth of the former cardinal’s confession. Ricard said in his confession that the alleged sexual abuse happened in Marseille, a southern city in France.
The article said the bishop of Nice informed prosecutors on Oct. 24 that Ricard admitted to him about kissing a teenage girl.
Also Read: French Catholic Church Uncovers Clerical Sexual Abuse Cases of 11 Bishops
Reactions to Ricard’s Confession
The former cardinal’s admission drew mixed reactions.
Eric de Moulins-Beaufort said on Monday that Ricard’s confession shocked other church officials. The former is the current leader of the Bishops’ Conference of France.
Meanwhile, a 70-year-old Bordeaux parishioner identified as Martine welcomed Ricard’s statement.
“It’s a good thing that he confessed and acknowledged it,” Martine told AFP. She lamented how it “was a shame that in the Catholic religion we don’t allow priests, archbishops and other people to get married.”
The chief of the Temoignage Chretien magazine, Christine Pedotti, exclaimed that the recent clergy sex abuse claims are “more than an earthquake.” “How can we believe people who were on their knees in Lourdes a year ago?” Pedotti said.
She was referring to the event in November last year where French bishops knelt during a meeting at Lourdes as their way of repenting for the sins committed by their fellow clergy.
Other Clergy Sex Abuse Cases
The news report identified other instances of sexual abuse committed by clergy members.
Bishops’ Conference of France President de Moulins-Beaufort disclosed on Monday that at least 10 active and retired bishops have also been named in sexual abuse cases. These sexual abuse allegations against French clergy members are just some of the many instances of sexual assaults that men in cloaks and church workers face in the European country.
The news outlet disclosed that the results of an investigation led by the president of the French Independent Committee on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, Jean-Marc Sauvé, released last year mentioned 216,000 instances of clergy sexual abuse against minors. The abuses allegedly happened over 70 years.
Additionally, the number eventually reached 330,000 cases when investigators added the sexual assault complaints versus Catholic school teachers and other French Catholic church lay members.
The report said that rape has a 30-year statute of limitation but can be extended if the victim is a minor. It added that a charge of sexual assault of a minor could be filed at most two decades from when the minor reached 18.
Related Article: Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Addresses Facebook Followers Amid Claim He Covered Up Dad’s Sex Abuse of Minors