How French Catholic Church discreetly relocates sex abuse priests to avoid scandal

By Daphné Gastaldi, Mathieu Martiniere et Mathieu Périsse

The Catholic Church in France has developed a system of quietly moving priests suspected of sex abuse to other areas or jobs, Mediapart can reveal. The method, aimed at avoiding or damping down local scandals without telling the judicial authorities, includes sending the priests concerned on sabbatical leave, to remote rural parishes, to jobs as archivists or as chaplains for the elderly, or in some cases despatching them to far-flung parishes in Africa and Asia. Daphné Gastaldi, Mathieu Martiniere and Mathieu Périsse report.

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The Catholic Church in France has been operating a system under which priests suspected of sex abuse have been discreetly relocated to other parishes, given other jobs, sent abroad or put on sabbatical leave in a bid to avoid public scandal, Mediapart can reveal. The practice was unearthed following a Mediapart investigation into the case of Father Jean-Marc Desperon, who was placed under formal investigation for child sex abuse on April 23rd this year. Twenty years ago Desperon had been moved from his parish in the Croix-Rousse area of Lyon in eastern France to a rural parish north of Toulouse, in the diocese of Montauban. Officially the move was so that the priest could look after his sick father. Unofficially it followed the first alerts from parents that the priest had a strong psychological hold over their children, concerns that were flagged right up to archbishop level.