Priest Abuses Hundreds for 25 Years… The Survivors live on in Silence

French Priest recounts how he abused boy scouts over decades

This report was released January 14, 2020 on ABC news.  Take note of the highlighted quotes throughout the report and then the comments following the article:
LYON, France — A former priest detailed Tuesday how he systematically abused boys over two decades as a French scout chaplain, and said his superiors knew about his “abnormal” behavior as far back as the 1970s. (1) 
The shocking testimony of Bernard Preynat is likely to further shake up the French Catholic Church as it reckons with sexual abuses that were long covered up. His account in court Tuesday suggested as many as five cardinals were aware of his behavior over the years, but didn’t report it to police or prosecutors. (2)
Preynat, now 74, is charged with sexually abusing multiple minors and faces up to 10 years in prison in what is France’s biggest clergy sex abuse trial to date. He’s suspected of abusing around 75 boys, but his testimony suggests the overall number could be even higher. (3)
He said he abused up to two boys “almost every weekend” from 1970 to 1990 when he worked as their scout chaplain, and as many as four or five a week when he led one-week scout camps.
He said parents first alerted the diocese in the 1970s, but his hierachy never punished him.
“I often said to myself ‘I have to stop’ but I started again a few months later. I blame myself today,” he told a hushed courtroom. (4)
“It seemed to me that the children were consenting,” he said. “I was wrong.”
“It took me time to understand the repercussions on the children. For me, they were gestures of tenderness, and I took a certain pleasure in that,” he said. (5)
Church hierarchy is suspected of covering up Bernard Preynat’s actions for decades, and a French cardinal was convicted last year of failing to report him to police or prosecutors. The case’s repercussions reached all the way to the Vatican.
Victims testified about how much power Preynat held over them, and the lifelong damage the abuse caused. (6)
“I saw this community that admired this man, and I was his protege, his pet,” said Francois Devaux, whose decision to speak out about Preynat’s abuse helped prompt the priest to come to terms with what he had done.
“He incarnated absolute hierarchy, sacred power,” Devaux said. Later, he said he attempted suicide. “I blocked out a big part of my adolescence, which was violent and complicated.” (7)
Responding to Devaux’s testimony, Preynat said, “I’m shattered to realize that because of me, he wanted to kill himself.”
In 1991, Preynat swore to the then-cardinal that he would no longer touch a child, and no other victims have come forward saying he abused them after 1991.
At the time of the abuse, Preynat was in charge of the Saint-Luc scout camp in a private Catholic school in Sainte-Foy-les-Lyons in the suburbs of Lyon for 20 years, then continued his career as a priest until 2015 in the mountains near Lyon.
It wasn’t until last year that the French Catholic Church found Preynat guilty of abuse and removed him from the priesthood.
In defrocking him, the church said in a statement: “In view of the facts and their recurrence, the large number of victims, the fact that Father Bernard Preynat abused the authority conferred on him by his position within the Scout group that he had founded … the court decided to apply the maximum penalty … namely the dismissal from the clerical state.”
That decision came after French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted in March of covering up for Preynat’s actions. Barbarin tried to resign, but Pope Francis refused to accept it until the appeals process is complete. An appeals court ruling is expected Jan. 30.
Several other church officials were also accused of failing to alert police or prosecutors, including a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria. The Vatican invoked his immunity as an official of a sovereign state.
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.
Jillian and I founded Holding onto Hope Ministries in 2008.  We believe the Spirit of God laid on our hearts a desire to speak out and provide hope for children of childhood sexual abuse.  I believe more than ever that the truth of the magnitude of the issue and the destruction rendered, continues to remain under the radar around the world. It is a testament to the power of shame and the influence of the enemy Satan.
Look at the statements in the above article:
(1.) …”his superiors knew about his “abnormal” behavior as far back as the 1970s.” For fifty years the community and the church in France has kept this secret.  The shame carried by both perpetrators and survivors is so powerful it silences all involved to the detriment of everyone.   (2)”as many as five cardinals were aware of his behavior over the years, but didn’t report it to police or prosecutors.”
(3) “He’s suspected of abusing around 75 boys, but his testimony suggests the overall number could be even higher.”  The average pedophile has over 400 victims in a lifetime.
(4)  “I often said to myself,  ‘I have to stop’ but I started again”  Sexual addictions are the most powerful of all addictions and the least addressed.  Symptoms of rape, molestation, and assault are encountered but the number that actually happen remain in the shadows.  I also believe the number of silent porn addicts dwarfs all other addictions combined.
(5) “It took me time to understand the repercussions on the children. For me, they were gestures of tenderness, and I took a certain pleasure in that,”.  The perpetrator cannot even conceive of the damage he or she has done to the victims.  Sadly, very few understand the depth of the hurt and pain, nor a way to assist in the healing process.
(6) Victims testified about how much power Preynat held over them, and the lifelong damage the abuse caused.  The power of adulthood and authority are too much for children to overcome.  The control continues, the shame deepens, the silence persists and the pattern of self-rejection lasts a lifetime or survivors choose to end the suffering early…“He incarnated absolute hierarchy, sacred power,” Devaux said. Later, he said he attempted suicide. “I blocked out a big part of my adolescence, which was violent and complicated.” (7)
This is the world that holds Jillian and my hearts. I continue to hear the still small voice that reminds me in stories like this one that there are countless numbers out there living in silence.  One word to each one of them that they are truly valuable in God’s sight goes so far in beginning or continuing the healing process.  We must admit there is a huge need.  We must speak out to give the survivors hope.  We must embrace the dependence we all share in the saving work of the cross. We must hold onto hope.
I am retiring from education this spring.  My heart continues to break and feel called to the survivors of sexual abuse.  Keep the ministry and Jillian and I in your prayers. We will continue the work as long as we are able. Somedays waiting for a word is really hard.  I am looking forward to the time to be available to my fellow survivors.  Blessings.
                                                            HOLD ONTO HOPE

About Bill Harbeck

Founder and Director of Holding on to Hope Ministries. A non-profit work that helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse unveil their past and begin the healing process. Author of the book Shattered; One Man's Journey from Childhood Sexual Abuse
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