An elderly French priest found bashed to death in his home had been accused of the abuse of two young boys.
Driving the news
The body of Father Roger Matassoli, who was 90, was found Monday in his residence in the Oise department in the north of France, according to local media.
Police said he had suffered trauma to his face, skull and abdomen and that his body showed signs of asphyxia, but they refused to confirm reports that a crucifix had been shoved down his throat.
Matassoli had served as parish priest of Froissy from 1988 to 2009, when he was removed from the active ministry after allegations of sexual assault.
At the time of his murder, he was living as a retiree.
The Beauvais public prosecutor’s office confirmed it had received two complaints against Matassoli in 2018, “concerning sexual assaults committed on two young boys when, aged 10 to 14, they were altar boys” in the priest’s parish.
However, the office said it could not bring the alleged crimes to trial.
Since the offences dated from 1962, in one case, and between 1976 and 1980, in the other, the statute of limitations had expired on both, the public prosecutor explained.
Why it matters
Jacques Benoit-Gonnin, bishop of the diocese of Beauvais, Noyon and Senlis, released a statement Wednesday explaining that Matassoli had not had “any parish office since 2009”.
At that time, “having heard a victim, I took measures against Father Matassoli, [removing him] from the public exercise of ministry”, Benoit-Gonnin said.
“After the filing of a civil complaint from a new victim, a canonical procedure was initiated that allowed the known victims to be heard.
“Father Matassoli was then banned from any ministry, even private”, the bishop said.
A diocesan spokesman was later unable to confirm if Matassoli’s removal from the active ministry was a precautionary measure or the result of a canonical judgment.
For the record
Benoit-Gonnin added that his thoughts went out to “the victims of Fr. Matassoli”, who “for several decades… have borne the weight and suffering of the acts by which they have been victims”.
“By asking them for forgiveness, I assure them of my availability and my prayers”, the bishop continued.
Benoit-Gonnin said that “in accordance with the ethics and discipline of the Church, in accordance with the instructions of Pope Francis, and repeating the position he has already expressed, I express my firm condemnation of any sexual abuse, especially when it is committed by a priest”.
He also renewed his invitation to other victims of clerical sex abuse to take their complaints to the police.
“I repeat, here, my availability and that of the diocese, to collaborate with justice”, Benoit-Gonnin concluded.
French media reported that a 19-year-old man named Alexandre, whose surname has not been made public, has been arrested in connection with Matassoli’s murder.
Beauvais prosecutors said that Alexandre was in “a delirious state” and has been hospitalised for serious mental health issues.
They added that they are waiting for medical approval to continue with the investigation.
It is not known what connection, if any, there was between Alexandre and Matassoli.