Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of France Confesses to Abuse - Catholic Bishops' Conference Issues Statement

After Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard (pictured) of France confessed to abuse the bishops of France released a statement.

In his own apology Cardinal Ricard wrote, “Thirty-five years ago, when I was a parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a young girl aged 14. My behavior has inevitably led to grave and lasting consequences for this person.” He explained that he would leave his functions and had spoken to the victim about the abuse. He said, “I renew here my request for forgiveness and also ask her entire family for forgiveness.” 

See 2:00 Mark on Video Below:

  Statement by Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims, President of the Conference of Bishops of France , in Lourdes, Monday, November 7, 2022.

Read Cardinal Ricard's press release of November 7, 2022

This admission by Cardinal Ricard was yesterday received by us bishops as a shock. You can imagine the esteem in which he is held by us who elected him twice as our president and who witnessed his episcopate in Grenoble, Montpellier and Bordeaux. We can imagine the amazement of the diocesan and of all the Catholics of France. I must specify that the fact he is talking about, even old, was the subject of a report to the prosecutor, since the young girl was a minor at the time of the facts, and of a report to the Dicastery for the doctrine of faith.

I therefore add, as I was beginning to do, that today there are six cases of bishops who have been implicated before the justice of our country or before canonical justice and who are known to you, which are now added Mgr Santier and Mgr Ricard[1]. Two others, who are no longer in office, are the subject of investigations today by the justice of our country after reports made by a bishop and a canonical procedure; a third is the subject of a report to the Prosecutor to which no response has been given to date and has received restrictive measures from his ministry from the Holy See . On the occasion of this Assembly, the Presidency and the Permanent Council were able to check with the officials concerned, the state of the procedures and the concrete situation of each of these bishops. It is not for me to say more.

Allow me to insist on the great diversity of the situations, of the acts committed or reproached. You see that canonical justice can act with rigor and systematically, sometimes beyond that of our country, in particular for facts which are prescribed or not sanctioned in French law. Despite its limits, this canonical justice takes into account the requirement of righteousness and consistency expected of a priest and the trust that many are ready to place in a priest , a fortiori in a bishop, sometimes at the risk of letting themselves down. , even to let oneself be drawn into what one would not want, what the people who were victims of Bishop Santier experienced.

I don't know much more about Cardinal Ricard than what he chose to say and make public. Our Assembly is not complete. We still have to work, on the basis of the precise analysis of cases that we have been able to do. You know that, this morning, we met the pilots and another member of each of the working groups that we had decided to set up during the November 2021 Assembly . The progress report made today November 7, 2022 already indicates to us the evolutions or transformations that we will have to initiate and implement as a Church to be more, in the midst of this world, the Church of Christ Jesus. If the Church is made up of sinners, it must ensure that these sinners do not use their statusecclesial order to cause harm and particularly affect fragile or vulnerable people or those made vulnerable. It must accompany the possible culprits with mercy , but it must also and above all begin by protecting the young and the less young and supporting those who have been victims within it.

I would like to thank you for your attention and for your work. In this painful time in which we are, he is helping to bring the truth to light. I assure you of the determination of the bishops: we want to continue the work of transformation begun last year and which the synodal process encourages, so that the Church responds to its mission.


[1] Clarification: of these six bishops, one is now deceased. In the end, ten former bishops out of office: eight currently implicated for abuse (including Bishop Santier and Cardinal Ricard) and two implicated for non-denunciation (one convicted in 2018, one released in 2020).  


Introduction of the Statement: 

Ladies and

Thank you for having accepted to join us today, for this press conference which had not been planned until now, without waiting for the final speech of our Plenary Assembly and the press conference which will follow it.

Before telling you about the news that is motivating this upheaval in our schedule, I would like to share with you the progress of our work concerning what some call the “Michel Santier affair”.

In opening this Assembly, I underlined how much we gathered with mixed feelings and how much above all we felt anger and weariness in the victims of violence and abuse in the Church , in particular in those who had decided to last year of trusting us and also among the faithful Catholics, especially the most committed, who had expressed before our assembly and continued to express during it their doubts, their discouragement, their difficulty in assuming the disastrous image of the Church given by the treatment of the facts reproached by Mgr Santier.

So part of our job was to make it clear between us what had happened.A precise chronology of the various actions carried out since a victim went to see his bishop, then the Archbishop of Paris, then Mgr Aupetit, has been established.It helped identify what had been done, what had not been done, what was insufficiently done and the malfunctions to be noted. We worked among ourselves, behind closed doors, which allowed us to go as far as possible in the exchanges, but also with experts: a lawyer, a canonist and the French official of the Dicastery of the doctrine of faith. I would like to thank them once again for their availability and their valuable contributions.

Let me emphasize four points:

  • The victims who spoke, a first then a second brought by the first, were listened to, taken seriously, believed. Despite the general esteem enjoyed by Mgr Santier, Mgr Aupetit was able to receive what these people said to him and he set in motion the planned canonical procedures. These led Bishop Santier to submit his resignation, giving the Pope the reasons for this request and this resignation to be accepted without delay. Bishop Santier was then subject to ministerial restrictions which put him away from any possibility of committing such acts again;
  • It had been planned that the resignation of Bishop Santier would take effect on June 30, 2020. Such an act is normally announced by the Holy See , but he did it himself, as early as June 6, citing a health reason. . The latter was all the more credible since he had spent a few weeks in the hospital, in the midst of a health crisis and confinement, in a very serious condition. His mention of “other reasons” then went unnoticed;
  • Apart from the Archbishop of Paris and the Apostolic Nuncio, the bishops knew nothing of what Michel Santier had committed. Canon law does not provide for the President of the Conference of Bishops to participate in these procedures. It so happened that I was made aware of this, but it was, in a way, according to everyone's good will. When Bishop Blanchet, in December 2020, learned that the Pope had appointed him Bishop of Créteil, he knew nothing of Bishop Santier's exact situation. He learned this later, during interviews prior to taking office. He therefore had to carry alone what he had learned and take care alone to limit the farewells and the homages that the diocesan of Créteil wanted to pay to the one who had been their bishop for 13 years.
  • When Mgr Santier, on the arrival of Mgr Blanchet, went to settle in the Manche, his region of origin, Mgr Le Boulc'h, Bishop of Coutances, did not know what his exact situation was, nor the real reasons. of his resignation. He learns about it later, because one of the two victims is worried about what she hears about the missions that could be entrusted to her. Bishop Le Boulc'h, in turn, receives this person, takes him seriously and imposes other conditions of life and ministry on Bishop Santier. The nuns to whom he was sent were warned and welcomed Bishop Santier knowingly, as a service to be rendered to a man who had been guilty of serious acts but who remained a human being and had to live somewhere.

Consult the chronology of the treatment relating to the situation of Bishop Santier

That being said, serious insufficiencies and dysfunctions at all levels appear clearly on re-reading this story. This observation allows us today to consider clear and precise measures to prevent such a situation from happening again:

  • Bishop Santier was believed when he recognized the facts reported by the two victims. It may seem obvious, in retrospect, that the guilty person should not be relied upon to establish the truth of his actions. This naivety makes it clear that bishops, no more than priests, are made to deal with crimes and misdemeanors. We are neither magistrates nor policemen and we do not have to become one. We must be aware of this incompetence and resolutely seek the help of competent third parties;
  • The public prosecutor's office was not seized, probably because the acts had been committed against people who were then adults, young adults but adults, and these people did not want at that time to have to be questioned further, the time having passed. , their life having been built;
  • The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in May 2020, asked the Archbishop of Paris, Mgr Aupetit, to open a canonical "preliminary investigation". This has not been done. The definition in the code of canon law of the preliminary inquiry is not clear: it is made to establish the likelihood of the facts. However, in this case, this likelihood was established since the respondent had recognized them. Moreover, his resignation had already been accepted. But under these conditions, when and also how is a real investigation carried out, to establish all the facts that the defendant could have committed and judge him accordingly?
  • I have already underlined the lack of adequate information from Archbishop Blanchet and Archbishop Le Boulc'h. The point here is who should have done it and when in the appointment process it should have been done;
  • When the disciplinary measures imposed on Msgr .of Rouen, the bishop of Créteil, moderate and complicated to implement. But the determination of these sanctions was not theirs, any more than their publication. Like French law, for example, the publication of penalties is an additional penalty. The reaction of the faithful to this affair must lead us to make it clear that a bishop being a public figure and claiming to be so, sanctions concerning him should always be published, unless a proportionate reason leads to another decision. The same reflection can apply to priests.
  • As for the relative moderation of the sanctions, it comes, from what we have understood, among other reasons, from the fact that the facts were old and doubtless prescribed in canon law. Canon law knows a prescription, just like our French law and that of all the nations which consider themselves as states of law. Prescription prevents the judge from knowing past facts. It marks the will of the law not only to sanction a tortious or criminal act and to repair as much as possible what the victims have suffered, but also to make possible the rehabilitation of the culprit, his reintegration into society. However, on re-reading, it appears that the procedure still provides for a "votum", a recommendation from the person conducting the canonical inquiry, whether he is thearchbishop or the nuncio or another person. We must work to express more reasoned and explicit "votums", taking into account two characteristics of the state of the people of God in France: on the one hand, that it is difficult for this people of God to understand that a priest having abused a person on the occasion of a sacrament can continue to celebrate Mass even in private, on the other hand that the people of God have the necessary maturity to bear learning of the faults committed by one of their pastors . We said it a lot last year and we believe it: “The truth will set you free”;
  • As President of the Conference of Bishops, having been made aware of the situation of Bishop Santier, even if these situations do not come under my authority and my powers, I readily acknowledge the following shortcomings: I could and should have, when Bishop Aupetit warned me of the facts he had learned, insisting more that a thorough investigation be carried out; then I could and should have been more worried about seeing Bishop Santier being kept in place, even though his resignation had been accepted. But I repeat: the Conference of Bishops is not a party to the procedure, I was only informed of some of the decisions taken, and not consulted for my opinion. In November 2021, during the assembly, I inform the bishops that disciplinary measures had been taken against Bishop Santier, but without giving any indication of the acts he had committed. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had asked me to notify the bishops if I deemed it useful, as much as possible orally. I deemed it necessary to do so, after an exchange with the Nuncio, to help Bishop Santier to keep to the rules imposed on him and to prevent bishops from inviting him to preach retreats or preside over pilgrimages. Undoubtedly, a better awareness of everyone's responsibilities is necessary, as well as better coordination between all stakeholders, whether by law or de facto. after an exchange with the Nuncio, to help Bishop Santier keep to the rules imposed on him and to prevent bishops from inviting him to preach retreats or preside over pilgrimages. Undoubtedly, a better awareness of everyone's responsibilities is necessary, as well as better coordination between all stakeholders, whether by law or de facto. after an exchange with the Nuncio, to help Bishop Santier keep to the rules imposed on him and to prevent bishops from inviting him to preach retreats or preside over pilgrimages. Undoubtedly, a better awareness of everyone's responsibilities is necessary, as well as better coordination between all stakeholders, whether by law or de facto.

So you can see that there is work ahead of us to improve the procedures and make them more effective and understandable to everyone. I don't think it's fair to accuse us of having wanted to hide the Santier affair, at least not in the sense that Mgr Santier would have escaped any sanction or would have remained a risk for anyone. Unfortunately, it is now clear that he may have had other victims in the past than the two people known up to then and perhaps facts of another nature. Since a report was made by the archbishop of the place, the judicial inquiry will make it possible to know it, we hope, and, failing that or in addition, the canonical inquiry. But two questions remain:

  • What concrete means do we have to carry out an investigation?
  • How can we encourage victims to speak up, create the climate that makes it possible for them if they wish? In the spring of 2019, when two victimized people speak, the listening cells exist, the existence of the CIASE is known to the general public, it may seem that a person who has something serious to say can do so and that she can even know that she would be received and listened to. However, that was not enough, history proves it, but only the vast media echo given to the silence, once it was broken.

At the same time that we are clarifying, as far as possible, the Santier affair, the Presidency and the Permanent Council have worked on the other cases of bishops implicated before the justice of our country or before canonical justice. I can tell you today what we know, what I know, within the limit of what comes back to me. But first I must let you know what we received yesterday, unexpectedly. The approach that will now be shared with you at the request of the person who does it is unprecedented.


Unknown said…

Why hasn't he been arrested by now and in prison by now - and awaiting a proper prison sentence for horrendous abuse of this young girl?

Apologies. he's a Catholic Pedophile Priest. They've been getting away with type of abuse against young boys and girls for hundreds of years.

Under their 'sham vows' of celibacy to the God they are supposed to worship and adore.

What hypocrites.