French bishops vote to compensate abuse victims with Church funds 

Lourdes, France, Nov 11, 2019 / 12:09 pm (CNA).- The bishops of France on Saturday approved plans to offer financial compensation to victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

According to the Associated Press, any person recognized by their bishop as a victim will be eligible to receive money, and the Church in France will appeal for donations to cover the costs.

The French bishops also voted to allocate 5 million euros, or $5.5 million, to an independent commission examining Church sex abuse in France and to support prevention efforts, the AP reported.

The bishops made the decision at their biannual assembly in Lourdes. They plan to consider additional details of the plan, including compensation amounts for victims, at their next meeting in April 2020.

The AP reports that an independent commission examining sexual abuse in France announced at the assembly that 2,800 people have responded since June to a call for testimonies.

France last year extended the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against minors from 20 years to 30.

The continued revelations of sexual abuse and subsequent cover-up by some Church officials in France come alongside similar revelations in countries such as the United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Poland, Argentina and Germany.

Most prominently in France, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty in March of failing to report to authorities the alleged sexual abuse of a priest in his diocese and was given a six-month suspended prison sentence.

He was charged with failing to report facts of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early ’90s.

In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him.

French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP. Five other archdiocesan officials on trial with Barbarin were acquitted the same day.

The cardinal had announced that he would resign his diocesan position, but the Vatican announced later in March that Pope Francis has not accepted the cardinal’s resignation, though Barbarin has stepped back from the day-to-day leadership of the diocese.

Barbarin appealed his six-month suspended sentence and a court in Lyon is expected to render a verdict Nov. 28.

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