News Analysis

The big story: Cardinal found guilty of failing to report abuse

What happened?

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyon, has been found guilty of failing to report alleged sexual abuse by a priest in his archdiocese. The cardinal received a six-month suspended sentence. He plans to appeal. He has said that, while his response to allegations against an abusive priest was “inadequate”, he had not concealed them. The prosecutor had recommended that Cardinal Barbarin be acquitted, but a judge found him guilty nevertheless.

What the international media said

“The conviction comes amid a number of other Catholic scandals around the world,” a BBC report noted, mentioning Cardinal George Pell’s conviction last month for child abuse. The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood described it as “yet another crushing blow to the Catholic Church’s credibility on the most damaging issue it has faced in recent history”. Yves Sauvayre, the lawyer for the abuse survivors, told reporters outside the court in Lyon: “The responsibility and guilt of the cardinal have been confirmed by this judgment. It’s an extraordinary symbol, a moment of huge emotion.” The story is not over yet. Cardinal Barbarin’s lawyer said the decision was “not fair” and that he will appeal. “We hope that at the next step, justice will be done.”

What the French media said

The newspaper Libération devoted its front page to a picture of Cardinal Barbarin, saying that the verdict “sounds like a warning against the Church”. For Ouest France, which also put the story on its front page, this was “a historic resignation”; Alsace paper DNA, alluding to the nature of Cardinal Barbarin’s sentence, headlined its front page Évêque en sursis – “suspended bishop”. The story featured less prominently on the front pages of Le Monde and Le Figaro – which, like DNA, said the Church was “in shock”. Writing for La Croix International, Bruno Bouvet and Mélinée Le Priol described Cardinal Barbarin as “a man of action who sets a fast pace. Privately, his former colleagues recall how it was both stimulating and challenging to work with him.”