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Paedophile French priest says Church 'could have helped' him

Bernard Preynat, a former priest accused on sexual assaults, waits the beginning of his trial, on January 13, 2020, in the courthouse of Lyon, southeastern France.
Bernard Preynat, a former priest accused on sexual assaults, waits the beginning of his trial, on January 13, 2020, in the courthouse of Lyon, southeastern France. © Philippe Desmazes, AFP
2 min

Former Catholic priest Bernard Preynat, on trial for sexually abusing dozens of boy scouts in the 1970s and 1980s, said on Wednesday that he warned the Catholic Church about his sexual impulses but they failed to take appropriate measures.

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“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 told the court on the second day of trial.

A former priest in Sainte-Foy-les-Lyon, in the suburbs of Lyon, Preynat could face up to 10 years in prison. But he claims that his sexual inclinations did not prevent him from being ordained in 1971.

“They should have helped me… They let me become a priest instead," he explained, after he had undergone therapy at the Vinatier Psychiatric Hospital, near Lyon, in 1967 and 1968.

Over the years, he explained during confession that some of his actions and impulses had been clearly presented "as sins". But “the priest would just encourage me not to do it again, and would then absolve me,” Preynat said.

“People mentioned the word ‘disease’ many times, but they never showed me a way out of it,” he said while being careful to stress: “I am not accusing the Church, I am not using it as an excuse.”

After being convicted in 2016, he said he didn’t “think about taking up therapy again”.  He assured the court he had stopped abusing children in the early 1990s by sheer strength of will, after a promise made to Cardinal Albert Decourtray.

Only ten plaintiffs, out of 35 victims heard during the investigation have been brought to trial, as many of the other cases are past the statute of limitations.

The allegations against Preynat, who was defrocked last summer, saw Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, handed a six-month suspended sentence for covering up Preynat’s acts.
 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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