A French Catholic women’s association has denounced the apparent censorship by the Bishop of Limoges of an ex-nun and victim of clerical sex abuse.
Driving the news
As La Croix reports, the Catholic Association of Women (ACF) has been forced to cancel a late September event in which Caroline, a former nun assaulted thirty years ago by a priest, was due to speak.
That was after Bishop Pierre-Antoine Bozo demanded that event organisers invite someone who would speak in front of Caroline from the priest’s point of view.
That offering of a counter-testimony was the condition Bozo imposed for holding the event on diocesan property.
But both ACF representatives and Caroline herself were offended by the bishop’s demand, and so scrapped the event.
Caroline, who first revealed her story a year ago, says she was touched indecently in the confessional by a priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, near the city of Blois.
It was her second sexual trauma, having been assaulted already in her adolescence.
Her priestly aggressor was convicted in a canonical process in 2016 for abusing other victims.
But despite evidence of his inappropriate gestures and attitudes “sometimes seriously scandalising penitents”, the priest-abuser, now in his nineties, was punished simply with the withdrawal of his faculties to hear confessions.
Even Bishop Bozo acknowledged that the Church’s verdict was “convoluted” and “not clear” and “reduce[d] the priest’s responsibility”.
Caroline has been unsuccessful in her bid to have the Church case reopened.
For the record
The former nun, now 51, said she “just wanted to testify, not give a lecture” at the ACF event.
She added she still loves the Church and just wants to “move forward”.
But that might be hard to do, especially given Bishop Bozo’s censorship.
The bishop “proposed that a priest from the Beatitudes be placed in front of Caroline”, denounced a member of the ACF.
“We cannot expect a victim to experience such a confrontation after we had offered to share her story, in all its subjectivity”.
But the bishop rejects the allegations of the ACF, and a local TV station, that he wanted to “muzzle” Caroline.
“Under no circumstances”, Bozo told La Croix.
Although he said he believed Caroline and wanted to support her, the bishop said “she is a woman who is too wounded, who has a too-black vision of the institution, to be fair in her remarks”.
Bozo further described Caroline as “very fragile” and “aggressive and virulent”.
“Through her wild resentment against the Church as a whole, her testimony risks leaving the faithful and the public with more questions than answers, and perhaps doing her more harm than good”, the bishop explained.
“And if we do not explain to the public how the Church now collects the words of victims or how the criminal statute of limitations works, this testimony may be incomprehensible”.
Despite Bozo’s attitude, this is not the end of the road for Caroline.
Blois prosecutors are currently investigating her allegations of abuse, despite the statute of limitations having expired on the crimes.
Caroline is also due in coming days to give her testimony to the independent Sauvé Commission, a body set up by the French Bishops to investigate the hierarchy’s handling of clerical sex abuse cases.
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