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The former priest, Bernard Preynat, dispossessed of his status as a clergyman since last July, he sits as of Tuesday on the bench of the defendants of the Court of Lyon (Eastern France) in the process of the case that brought to light the pederasty in the French Church and its concealment orchestrated by the hierarchy.

In the accusers' bank they will only be a dozen of the victims of the touching and rapes of this priest, suffered between 1985 and 1991, those who have been able to escape the prescription of most of the cases, a hundred detected by the investigation and the associations created to look for them.

As he did before the investigators, Preynat made it clear from the outset that he does not plan to deny the accusation: "I recognize the facts. At that time I didn't realize its seriousness. "

With a broken voice, Preynat, who is now 75 years old and faces a shame that can come up to ten years in jail and 150,000 euros of fine, said that could abuse "four or five children a week", which he did mostly on weekends and when he took them camping.

"I didn't think I was committing sexual assaults," said the former clergyman, who nevertheless confessed that he knew that what I was doing was not allowed, and that's why he did it secretly, and he recognized that he was seeking pleasure.

It was the complaints of the victims that made him aware that his caresses and touch caused damage to children who, now adults, recognized that they continue to carry sequels and in some cases they did think about suicide.

Cases covered by superiors

France lives the process as a trial at a time when the church looked the other way and he consented to the performance of a charismatic and powerful cleric, who created a group of "scouts" outside of all control, in which he multiplied the abuses he also committed in his diocese.

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin during his trial, where he was convicted of covering up cases of child abuse.

Reuters

His case was portrayed in the movie Grâce à dieu, by François Ozon, released last February, coinciding with another parallel trial, which ended the sentence of six months in prison exempt from compliance with the cardinal and archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, for having covered up to Preynat.

Beginnings of abuse and therapies

During the investigation, the priest confessed that he himself was a victim of childhood abuse and that he began to commit them in his youth, between the ages of 16 and 17, when he was a monitor in holiday colonies, at which time the first complaints about his behavior were placed.

At the seminar the warning signs continued, which led his superiors to enroll him in a psychiatric therapy between 1967 and 1968, but that did not prevent him from being ordained a priest in 1971.

Sent to the parish of Saint-Luc de Sainte-Foylès, just outside Lyon, Preynat became an influential figure, much loved by the large local families, a status that allowed him to organize his group of "scouts".

Drip of parent complaints he was incessant, until in 1990 he recognized him before the then archbishop of Lyon, Albert Decourtray, who was content to change his parish, which caused great discontent among his faithful of Sain-Luc, who held him in high esteem.

First complaint

After a brief passage through a convent of nuns, Preynat was sent to the small town of Neulise. In the summer of 2015, one of the victims, Alexandre Hezez, a battle began to separate Preynat from the clergy.

Before the inaction of the archbishopric, already directed by Barbarin, Hezez wrote to Pope Francis and the Prosecutor and filed a complaint, which brought to light the case that shook the foundations of the French Church.

The canonical investigation was faster than usual and did not wait for the civilian. Preynat was dispossessed of his cleric status in July 2019. But the scandal did not stop. The Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation and the victims organized into an association, "The Word released", which accumulated testimonies of victims.

The shockwave took Barbarin ahead and forced the French Church to tighten its pedophilia procedures. An internal commission was created to detect new cases and to sensitize all levels of the way in which they must act against them.