Lyon cardinal Philippe Barbarin

French cardinal convicted of pedophilia cover-up himself accused of seminarian harassment

A French cardinal convicted of the cover-up of the crimes of a pedophile priest has been accused himself of the harassment of a seminarian.

Driving the news

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon allegedly harassed a former student for the priesthood between 2006 and 2012, journalist Frédéric Martel claimed in an article in the magazine L’Obs Wednesday.

Martel is famous for his February book exposé In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, in which he accused key Vatican officials of using an exaggerated homophobia to hide their own gay identities.

For his new claims against Barbarin, Martel based himself on a twelve-page complaint sent by the former seminarian to the French Bishops’ Independent Commission on Sex Abuse in the Church (Ciase).

Go deeper

In the Ciase complaint, the man allegedly abused by Barbarin, Benoît Quettier – now 44 – accused the cardinal, 69, of grooming him for abuse after accepting him and his brother, Romain, into the Lyon diocesan seminary in 2006.

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Benoît said Barbarin regularly summoned him to his residence, and as a seminarian he had to obey the orders.

But the “tenderness” the cardinal showed him by making him an assistant master of liturgical ceremonies quickly turned to “humiliation”, Benoît denounced.

He added that the conversations the two shared soon turned to sexual subjects, as Barbarin asked him about his dating history and about which of the Lyon seminarians and priests were gay.

“At the Lyon seminary, I was surrounded by [homosexuals]”, Benoît revealed.

“I had chosen celibacy, and there I did not understand what was happening to me.

“I came to regret not being like them! But I was straight, that was the problem. And that’s why I was ousted”, the man denounced, adding that he was forced out of the house of formation because he never formed part of the seminary “harem”.

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Why it matters

Benoît said being kicked out of the seminary led him into a period of depression in which he had no other choice but to see a psychiatrist.

In an ironic twist of fate, Benoît said Barbarin justified his expulsion from the seminary on the basis of the young student’s being gay.

The man added he was “shocked” by Barbarin’s grooming, “his allusions, his sexual questions. It was very destabilising”.

For his part, Benoît’s brother Romain said that there was no doubt in his mind that Benoît had suffered a “constant” campaign of harassment, humiliation and later payback at the hands of Barbarin.

The cardinal had no comment for L’Obs on the new allegations.

What’s next

Barbarin was sentenced in March to a six month suspended prison sentence for not reporting to police the crimes of Lyon pedophile priest Bernard Preynat.

In the wake of the conviction, the cardinal offered his resignation to the Pope, but Francis refused to accept it, instead inviting Barbarin to step aside from diocesan government “for a while”.

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In June, the Pope named Bishop Emeritus of Evry-Crobeil-Essonnes, Michel Dubost, as apostolic administrator of Lyon.

Barbarin’s appeal against his conviction will be heard November 28.

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