Despite promises to end sex scandals plaguing the church for decades, Pope Francis has declined to accept the resignation of French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who was convicted of concealing abuses by a priest in his diocese.
Cardinal Barbarin offered to step down in a private meeting with the Pope on Monday, less than two weeks after becoming the highest-ranking church official to be convicted of covering up sex abuse. Denying any wrongdoing, Barbarin has appealed the six-month suspended sentence he received in a surprise ruling by the Lyon court.
While Pope Francis refused his resignation offer, he did suggest Barbarin “stand aside for a while,” and the cardinal has delegated his day-to-day responsibilities to Vicar General Father Yves Baumgarten. Several victims of clerical abuse have expressed disappointment with the Pope’s decision.
“It shows that we are right and that the problem is inherent to dogma,” said François Devaux, president of La Parole Liberée, an advocacy group for victims of clerical sex abuse.
The French court ruled Barbarin was obliged to report Rev. Bernard Preynat to French authorities after learning in 2014 that Preynat had preyed on Boy Scouts throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Preynat, who has confessed to abusing the boys, will be tried on sexual violence charges in 2020.