French film on paedophile priest case opens after legal go-ahead

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François Ozon’s film Grace a Dieu (By the Grace of God), which tells the real-life story of how Catholic priest Bernard Preynat sexually abused young scouts the 1980s and early 1990s, opened in French cinema theatres on Wednesday after a Paris court ruled against a last-minute attempt by Preynat, who has yet to be tried, to halt its distribution, and also against a demand by a psychologist and member of the Lyon diocese that her name should be removed.  

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A Paris court has thrown out an attempt to block the French release of a film inspired by the real-life battle fought by victims of a paedophile Catholic priest, reports Reuters.

Father Bernard Preynat was accused of abusing dozens of boy scouts during the 1980s and early 1990s and was removed from his post in the Lyon diocese in 2015. He has admitted sexual abuse, according to his lawyer, and is due to go on trial this year.

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François Ozon’s film Grace a Dieu (By the Grace of God), which won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize on Saturday at Berlin’s International Film Festival, tackles the story behind France’s most important church child abuse scandal to date.

Preynat’s lawyer said he regretted the court’s decision.

“To portray a man as guilty for two hours when he hasn’t yet been tried is an affront to the presumption of innocence,” lawyer Emmanuel Mercinier told Reuters.

The judge confirmed that events were presented as fact in the film, Mercinier said, but ruled that a written message at the film’s end indicating that Preynat was innocent until proven guilty was sufficient under French law.

The movie is due to be released on Wednesday, on the eve of a meeting in Rome between Pope Francis and senior bishops from around the world to discuss the protection of minors.

Read more of this report from Reuters.

 

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