A notorious French pedophile ex-priest has appealed a 5-year sentence for abuse he committed over decades against at least 75 boys.
– France’s worst clerical abuse scandal to yet hit the courts
Former scout chaplain Bernard Preynat, 75, was slapped with the jail term Monday in a criminal court in Lyon for the crimes he committed from at least 1971 to 1991 against boys between 7 and 15 years of age, in what is France’s worst clerical abuse scandal to yet reach the justice system.
Preynat’s lawyer has since announced the appeal, for which reason the pedophile ex-cleric – who was defrocked in the summer of 2019 – won’t yet enter prison.
– Mixed reactions from survivors
Though the 5-year sentence was less than the petition of prosecutors – who had argued for a term of at least 8 years behind bars for Preynat, for the fact of his having ruined the lives of the dozens of scouts he abused – some of the ex-priest’s victims expressed their satisfaction after the verdict was announced.
“It’s really a relief”, survivor Pierre Emmanuel Germain-Thill told the AP.
“Since he’s someone of a certain age, it seems like a correct verdict to me. The victims want to turn the page”.
Other victims and survivors’ groups, meanwhile, such as the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), criticised the sentence as too lenient.
“While we are grateful that this dangerous man will now be kept away from children, we worry about the message being sent by this sentence”, SNAP said in a statement.
“Fr Preynat himself admitted perpetrating these crimes. There was no doubt about Fr Preynat’s guilt, nor any mitigating factors that would have lessened his charges. He is, by all accounts, an extremely dangerous serial abuser.
“We cannot help but feel that the sentence imposed by the courts in this case is far too short for the nature of these crimes.
“As survivors of sexual abuse know, being abused as a child carries a lifetime sentence.
“Yet in this case, Fr Preynat will serve less than 23 days for each child he admits abusing”.
Preynat’s case has generated intense interest in France and beyond, not least of all because Preynat himself testified that he told various Church officials and cardinals of his sexual attraction towards children as far back as the 1960s, only to the inaction of those same ecclesiastical authorities.
After Preynat’s abuse finally came to light in 2015, it also implicated Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who as then-Archbishop of Lyon had responsibility for having kept the pedophile in the active ministry, despite the years of complaints against him.
After years of suspicion and public shaming, Barbarin was finally acquitted on appeal in late January this year of the cover-up charges on which he was convicted in March 2019.
When that conviction was handed down last year, Barbarin stepped aside from the day-to-day running of the Lyon archdiocese, and offered his resignation to Pope Francis, who refused to accept it.
The pontiff, however, finally discharged Barbarin from his duties in Lyon earlier this month.