By NICOLAS VAUX-MONTAGNY
LYON, France (AP) — A former priest detailed Tuesday how he systematically abused boys over two decades as a French scout chaplain, and said his superiors knew about his “abnormal” behavior as far back as the 1970s.
The shocking testimony of Bernard Preynat is likely to further shake up the French Catholic Church as it reckons with sexual abuses that were long covered up. His account in court Tuesday suggested as many as five cardinals were aware of his behavior over the years, but didn’t report it to police or prosecutors.
Preynat, now 74, is charged with sexually abusing multiple minors and faces up to 10 years in prison in what is France’s biggest clergy sex abuse trial to date. He’s suspected of abusing around 75 boys, but his testimony suggests the overall number could be even higher.
He said he abused up to two boys “almost every weekend” from 1970 to 1990 when he worked as their scout chaplain, and as many as four or five a week when he led one-week scout camps.
He said parents first alerted the diocese in the 1970s, but his hierachy never punished him.
“I often said to myself ‘I have to stop’ but I started again a few months later. I blame myself today,” he told a hushed courtroom.
Suggested reading for the human rights of the victims rather than organized religion