Cardinal Philippe Barbarin gave his resignation to Pope Francis after being convicted in a French court for failing to report sex abuse allegations to authorities.
On Wednesday, French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor. Barbarin was not present in the Lyon Court for the verdict.
Barbarin was given a six month suspended prison sentence for failing to report sex abuse allegations between July of 2014 and June of 2015, made against a priest in his diocese, Bernard Preynat.
9 alleged victims of Preynat brought to the case to court, saying Barbarin and other church officials covered up for him for years. Preynat, who goes on trial next year, is alleged to have abused more than 70 boy scouts belonging to a group not affiliated with official boy scout organizations.
Jean-Felix Luciani, Barbarin’s lawyer, stated his intent to immediately appeal:
“This is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level. The court’s reasons do not convince me. We will contest this decision by all the means possible. See you here in a few months for an appeal. We hope that at the next step, justice will be done.”
Five other church officials were acquitted in the same trial. Barbarin was expected to be acquitted as well, the prosecutor even arguing there was no proof of Barbarin’s legal wrongdoing. His lawyer added that the court was under pressure from documentaries and films about the case.
Throughout the trial Barbarin maintained his innocence, claiming that he “never tried to hide, let alone cover up these horrible facts – I cannot see what I am guilty of.” He said “I did exactly what Rome asked me to do” in removing Preynat from his ministry duties.
In a press conference after the decision given at the Bishop’s House in Lyon, Barbarin told journalists he would be going to Rome shortly to hand in his resignation to Pope Francis as Archbishop of Lyon.
“After the decision of the court, regardless of my personal fate, I want to reiterate first of all compassion for the victims and the whole place that they and their families have in my prayers.”
The Bishops’ Conference of France released a statement saying it would not comment until Barbarin had exhausted his appeals process.