As head of holiday camps, Bernard Preynat temporarily abused “four to five children a week”. The former priest Bernard Preynat said on Tuesday at the start of his trial in Lyon. He admitted sexual assault on boys over a period of 20 years.
“At the time, it wasn’t for me as sexual violence, but as tenderness and caress,” said 74-year-old Preynat. “I was wrong. It was only through the charges against the victims that I understood, »he said of the boys aged seven to 15 years.
Judge shocked by confession
The former priest is accused of sexually abusing dozens of boys between 1971 and 1991 as leaders of boy scout groups. According to him, the number of unreported cases is apparently significantly higher. Court President Anne-Sophie Martinet was shocked by the confession. “That makes almost a child a day,” she said. The defendant faces ten years in prison, some of the offenses have already expired.
François Devaux testified as a witness, who helped set the process in motion as the founder of a victims’ association. He reported “suffering and anger” about the priest who abused him. He had “very dark life” as an adolescent and attempted suicide. Because he saw the priest as a “connection between God and man”, he had kept his own fate secret for decades, said Devaux.
«One of the greatest sex criminals»
Victim lawyer Emmanuelle Haziza said the former priest was “one of the greatest sex criminals in the Lyon region”. “Not only does he deny the sexual nature of his attacks on the boys, he also admits that he has touched hundreds of children.” A total of ten victims appear as civil plaintiffs in the trial.
The Catholic Church in France had relieved the 74-year-old of his spiritual dignity last July, a good four years after the allegations of abuse became known.
Cardinal defends himself
The case led to the overthrow of the highest clergy of France: Cardinal Philippe Barbarin resigned as Archbishop of Lyon after a court found him guilty of covering the priest for years.
In connection with the Preynat case, an appeal is currently underway against the cardinal, who is resisting his conviction. The public prosecutor has pleaded for acquittal. She argues that the cardinal cannot be personally responsible for errors made by the Catholic Church. The judgment against the cardinal is due to be announced in Lyon on January 30. (SDA)