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French Catholic Church defrocks abuse priest at centre of Barbarin affair

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at a press conference in Lyon, where he announced his resignation for failing to report sex abuse, 7 March 2019.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at a press conference in Lyon, where he announced his resignation for failing to report sex abuse, 7 March 2019. JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

The Catholic Church in France has defrocked a priest charged with sexually assaulting dozens of boy scouts in Lyon in a far-reaching scandal that saw a cardinal convicted for failing to report abuse. 

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Father Bernard Preynat was on Thursday "dismissed of the clerical state" – the heaviest sentence that can be pronounced by the church's ecclesiastical court.

Preynat was indicted in February 2016 for the sexual assault of minors dating back to the 1970s. More than 80 other people came forward with allegations of abuse by Preynat over a 20-year period.

Accusations against the 74-year-old saw influential cleric Cardinal Philippe Barbarin convicted of a cover up in what became the biggest scandal to hit the French church in decades.

A court statement seen by AFP said: "In light of the facts and their recurrence, the large number of victims, the fact that Bernard Preynat abused the authority vested in him within the scout group...the court has decided to impose the maximum penalty under Church law in such a case, namely, the removal of his status as a priest."

Preynat, 74, has one month to appeal the ruling.

With his guilt “having been recognised", the ecclesiastical court said it would now focus on studying the victims' claims for financial compensation.

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