French Priest Stands Civil Trial for Sexually Abusing Minor and Forcing Him to Confess

News: World News
by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  •  June 17, 2019   

Church cover-ups still coming to the surface one year after McCarrick revelations

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SAINT-MALO, France ( - An accused priest in France is standing trial for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy and forcing him to confess on his knees after each incident of abuse.

On Monday, Dominique (a pseudonym), 31, appeared in court in the trial of a priest accused of sexually abusing him as a minor. According to Dominique, after each incident of sexual abuse, the accused priest would force him to kneel to confess his sins.

If true, this would involve at least two clerical sins that fall under the category of delicta graviora (serious transgressions) — that is, sins that are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for sacramental absolution:

The absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, mentioned in can. 1378 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law [21], and in can. 1457 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches [22] (Part 1, Art 4). ...

The delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years; in this number, a person who habitually has the imperfect use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor (Part 1, Art 6).

Just prior to the trial, Dominique appeared with his attorney, Pierre Stichelbaut, to speak with French newspaper Le Pays Malouin about the priest accused of sexually abusing him as well as his experience with how Church authorities handled the case.

According to Dominique, after each incident of sexual abuse, the accused priest would force him to kneel to confess his sins.

Dominique was 12–13 years old when a young, 30-year-old priest arrived at a parish in Saint-Malo, France.

The priest had a lot of charisma, spoke well and appeared to be rather pious. The families in the region were taken with the new priest and had hoped he would help revitalize the youth in the area.

A pious youth from a devout family, Dominique had many questions about life and faith when he received the sacrament of confirmation at age 14. He was even considering becoming a priest. Then a boy, he trusted the accused priest and confided in him, even accepting the cleric as his "spiritual father."

The priest would give precise advice based on intimate and privileged details of Dominique's life, telling him to be wary of girls, friends, parents and anybody close, assuring the boy that he could turn to him as a confidant.

"He was trying to isolate me," said Dominique, "and it worked rather well."

During this phase, the priest comported himself in an exemplary manner.

"He showed that one could have complete confidence in him," said Dominique.

The priest had won everybody's trust, including Dominique's parents, who allowed their son to travel alone with the priest to Rome.

"My parents were thrilled with this opportunity offered to their 15-year-old son," recounted Dominique.

The two stayed in a room for two in a convent near the Vatican. After they had walked the entire day, Dominique laid down to rest; the priest laid alongside him and began to touch him.

"I was paralyzed," said Dominique. "I did not know what to do."

"I trusted him," he added. "I was really shocked."

Dominique did alert Church authorities within the canonical statute of limitations (called "prescription" in canon law). The priest was summoned and a canonical inquiry was ordered; the inquiry was entrusted to an 85-year-old priest.

Dominique provided two hours of testimony during the inquiry, but nobody else was asked to testify. In effect, this rendered the canonical trial a matter of hearsay. The inquiry concluded that the priest was the victim and Dominique was the aggressor.

The priest was sent to a religious community far from Saint-Malo some months later, an action Dominique found insufficient.

"The Church, at least its hierarchy, did not protect me," he said. "This canonical trial was a farce."

Dominique hopes that the trial will lead to a sentence commensurate with the crime.

Unsatisfied with such inadequate measures, Dominique filed a lawsuit in June 2010.

The accused priest has argued that sexual encounters between the two were consensual, and even that Dominique was the aggressor (being 15 years old at the time) and he the victim (being 30 years old at the time).

Dominique disagrees.

"We're talking about penetration, not consent," he said. "That's rape."

Dominique hopes that the trial will lead to a sentence commensurate with the crime.

After all this, Dominique says, "I am still very religious and very attached to a spiritual life."

"But I no longer trust the institution at all," he added. "If I have to go to church for a wedding, a baptism or a funeral, I go there. But the pain remains."

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