A French pedophile ex-priest has contradicted the cardinal convicted for covering-up his abuse, saying he confessed his crimes to the red hat years before the prelate claimed.

Driving the news

In his trial for the sexual abuse of dozens of boy scouts in the 70s and 80s that began this week in a court in Lyon, former priest Bernard Preynat, who was defrocked last July, testified that he told Lyon cardinal Philippe Barbarin of his crimes in 2010.

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Preynat said January 15 in court that Barbarin “called me in twice, including once in 2010 to talk about an appointment.

“Before appointing me elsewhere, he wanted more information about me and the assaults I was accused of.

“I told him that I had been guilty of sexual assault for many years, but I did not go into details”.

Why it matters

Preynat’s confession that he admitted his abuse to Barbarin in 2010 is significant in that the cardinal has always maintained – including in court on cover-up charges – that he only ever heard “rumours” about the pedophile priest at that time, and that “nobody came to see me before 2014 to tell me specific things”.

Barbarin was convicted last March for covering-up Preynat’s crimes and handed a six-month suspended prison sentence.

The cardinal appealed that conviction in November, and is currently awaiting the result of the appeal.

However, the pedophile’s confession that he told Barbarin of his abuse in 2010, and not in 2014, is unlikely to influence the outcome of the cardinal’s appeal, since under French law any inaction in 2010 on the prelate’s part is unable to be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.

For the record

Other details to emerge this week in the trial against Preynat – who has admitted to abusing “four or five [children] a week” over the course of two decades – include the former priest’s confession that he himself was abused as a minor.

Preynat testified that he wrote last summer to Michel Dubost, caretaker of the Lyon archdiocese while Barbarin is on papal-imposed indefinite leave, to tell him he had been abused as a young man by a priest, a sacristan and a seminarian.

Preynat also said in court that “without accusing” anyone he blamed the Church for not helping him with his deviant sexual urges.

“When I was 14 years old, during my Junior Seminary, I already knew [that I was attracted to little boys]. People told me ‘you are sick’, but they got rid of me. They sent me to another seminary”, Preynat lamented, also on Wednesday.

“They should have helped me… They let me become a priest instead”, the pedophile added, explaining too that he admitted his “sins” in the confessional, but “the priest would just encourage me not to do it again, and would then absolve me”.

“People mentioned the word ‘disease’ many times, but they never showed me a way out of it”, Preynat regretted.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.