Bishop regrets helping Canadian paedophile priest

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05 April 2010

(AFP) –

Denis Vadeboncoeur: convicted in both Canada and France for sexual assault

PARIS — A retired French bishop said on Monday that it was a mistake to take a convicted Canadian paedophile priest into his diocese in the 1980s but added that “back then, that’s how the Church operated.”

“We were being helpful. We were asked to take in an undesirable priest and we agreed,” said Jacques Gaillot, the former bishop of Evreux, west of Paris.

“This was more than 20 years ago. It was a mistake,” said Gaillot in an interview to Le Parisien newspaper.

Pope Benedict XVI is facing growing anger over the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal and allegations that the church hierarchy worked to cover up crimes committed by their priests.

In 1987, Gaillot agreed to take in Canadian priest Denis Vadeboncoeur, two years after he was sentenced to 20 months in a Quebec prison for sexually assaulting children.

Gaillot knew of his conviction and yet appointed him priest and vicar in 1988 to a parish in western France, allowing him to have regular contact with children.

A French criminal court convicted Vadeboncoeur again in 2005 for raping several minors between 1989 and 1992 and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

During the trial, Gaillot expressed regret for his decision to provide refuge for Vadeboncoeur.

The retired bishop said that “things have changed within the church. We now let justice authorities step in. We are slowly coming out of this culture of secrecy.”

The archbishop of Paris and head of the Catholic Church in France, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, on Sunday said media attention on the child abuse scandals were a “smear campaign” targeting the pope.

The cardinal said the cases now being widely reported date back several decades. Of the 20,000 priests practising in France, about 30 have been convicted and jailed for sex crimes and not all of them involving paedophilia, he said.

France has not seen the sort of large-scale paedophile scandals that have rocked the Irish, German and US churches, but there have been some cases such as the arrest last week of a Catholic radio station director.

Father Jacques Gaimard, who worked in the northern Normandy region, was charged on Wednesday with sexual assaults on a minor in 1992 and 1993 and released on bail.


French bishop regrets sheltering paedophile priest

Evreux cathedral, where Jacques Gaillot was bishop between 1982 and 1995.



05 April 2010

A retired French bishop admitted on Monday that it was a mistake to accept a priest convicted of paedophilia in Canada into his diocese in northern France, where he went on to abuse more children. The comments come a day after the head of the Catholic Church in France denounced the recent attention given to paedophilia priest scandals as a smear campaign against the Pope.

Jacques Gaillot, the former bishop of Évreux in Haute-Normandie, northern France, agreed to take in Canadian priest Denis Vadeboncoeur in 1987.

“We were being helpful,” Gaillot told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published on Monday. “We were asked to take in an undesirable priest and we agreed.”

Two years earlier, Vadeboncoeur had been sentenced to 20 months in prison by a Canadian court for sexually assaulting children. Despite knowing of his conviction, in 1988 Gaillot appointed Vadeboncoeur to a local parish, where he was in regular contact with children.

Vadeboncoeur was subsequently convicted by a French court in 2005 for repeatedly raping a boy aged less than 15 between 1989 and 1992, for which he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“This was more than 20 years ago. It was a mistake,” Gaillot says now.

“Back then, that’s how the church operated.”

The diocese of Évreux was criticised during the trial by a police officer investigating the case after certain documents disappeared from the bishop’s residence.

One of Gaillot’s former secretaries, who was an alcoholic at the time and died before Vadeboncoeur’s trial, was blamed for the missing evidence – as well as for writing an open letter to parishioners asking for their “compassion and mercy” for the priest.

But Gaillot, who was removed from his position in 1995 for expressing overly liberal views, insists that the church takes a different attitude today.

“We now let justice authorities step in. We are slowly coming out of this culture of secrecy.”

On Sunday, Le Parisien published an interview with Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and head of France’s Roman Catholic church, in which he said that the Pope was the victim of a “campaign of denigration and slander” in relation to recent paedophilia scandals that have shaken the church.

The cases recently made public of priests abusing children date back over the past 50 years and concern only a very small minority of the clergy, Vingt-Trois said, adding that “we all feel shame and regret” about such crimes.

He stressed that Pope Benedict XVI, in his former role as head of the Holy Office which oversees Catholic doctrine, had encouraged bishops to take action against paedophilia by systematically informing Rome of such cases.

“Remember that in France, of the 20,000 priests practicing, about 30 are serving jail terms for sexual crimes and not all of these involved paedophilia,” the cardinal said.

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