Pope Francis Has Refused the Resignation of Convicted Cardinal

Cardinal Barbarin was convicted of a child sexual abuse cover-up.

Pope Francis has rejected the offer of resignation by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. The former was convicted on charges of failing to inform the proper authorities of child sexual abuse allegations. In his statement, Barbarin said on the morning of March 18 that he forwarded his resignation to the pope. The pontiff invoked a presumption of innocence and declined to accept the Frenchman’s resignation. Cardinal Barbarin is the present archbishop of Lyon. He ascended to this position in 2003.

Barbarin, until now, is the top-ranked Roman Catholic Church clergy to be entangled in the murky sex abuse scandals within the French church. The convictions were done on allegations of covering up incidents involving sexual abuse of boy scouts. The abuse happened during the 1980s and in the early 1990s. The abuser was Bernard Preynat, a priest who was subsequently given a prison sentence of six months.

The archbishop has appealed against a verdict which castigated him for his failure to report claims of abuse. The pope, although he has turned down the cardinal’s offer of resignation, has nevertheless suggested to the latter to stand aside for some time. Barbarin was not the sole Vatican official to be punished. George Pell, the former Australian Cardinal, was sentenced by a Melbourne court to six years in prison. Pell was convicted of sexual abuse of two schoolboys.

Alessandro Gisotti, the spokesperson for the Vatican, reiterated that the Holy See continues to maintain a close relationship with the sexual abuse victims and with the French faithful who, he said, are presently enduring an extremely painful phase.

Barbarin, at 68-years-old, is the senior most Catholic cleric to be embroiled in the scandal. Child sexual abuse is a global issue in the Catholic Church. After he was convicted of failing to report child abuse crimes, Barbarin said he would visit Rome to give his resignation directly to Pope Francis. The pontiff has defended the French Cardinal once before, saying in 2016 that Barbarin’s resignation before any trial would be imprudent and constitute an error on the Vatican’s part.

The French cardinal’s lawyer has already announced that he would appeal such a conviction. Abuse victims are seeing this conviction as a step which ushered in a new kind of accountability within the French Catholic church. For Pope Francis, the sentence against Barbarin is one among many which have rocked the Vatican. The pope is now working at a frenetic pace to restore people’s trust in the Holy See.

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