Retired French archbishop admits ‘inappropriate’ behavior towards woman in 1980s
A retired archbishop has admitted to inappropriate behavior towards a young woman in the 1980s, during the latest setback for the French Catholic Church.
In a statement dated November 15 but published on Wednesday, Bishop Jean-Pierre Grallet said he was facing canonical and civil investigations into his actions.
The 81-year-old Franciscan, who retired as Archbishop of Strasbourg in 2017, said: “At the end of the 1980s, when I was a Franciscan religious, I acted inappropriately towards a young woman adult, behavior that I deeply regret”.
“A canonical investigation is currently underway and a report to civil justice has been made. In the summer of 2022, I became aware of this woman’s testimony and immediately wrote to her to tell her that I had let her down and to ask her forgiveness.
He continued: “I wish, through this public statement that I submit to the President of the Episcopal Conference of France, to contribute to the process of truth and to assume my responsibility”.
“From now on, pending the conclusions of the canonical and civil investigations, I am retiring from public speaking. I got lost and injured someone. The forgiveness that I have asked for, I also express it to all his relatives, as well as to all those who, today, will be bruised, under the shock of this revelation.
Grallet’s statement was released on November 16 by the president of the French episcopal conference, Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, who Noted that Grallet was one of three unnamed bishops who he announced last week were the subject of civil and canonical investigations.
Beaufort Mills said during the plenary meeting of French bishops in Lourdes on November 7, that a total of 11 French bishops had been subject to scrutiny by the secular or ecclesiastical justice systems, suspected of having committed or covered up abuses .
“On behalf of all the bishops of France, Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort wishes to express his compassion to the person who has been the victim of this serious behavior on the part of a religious who later became a bishop,” said a November 16. press release from the Conference of Bishops of France. “It will be up to the investigation to determine the exact nature of the facts.”
Bishop Luc Ravelsuccessor of Grallet in the archdiocese of Strasbourg, said Wednesday that Grallet’s confession concerned the events of the fall of 1985.
“These facts were brought to my attention by the victim in December 2021,” he said. “I reported the case to the Strasbourg public prosecutor in January 2022. The Roman authorities have also been informed. These investigations are ongoing. »
Grallet is the third French church leader to come under scrutiny since mid-October, when it emerged that Archbishop Michel Santier had been cleared to step down in 2021 for health reasons as he faced allegations of spiritual abuse dating from the 1990s.
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard admitted on November 7 that he had behaved “reprehensibly” towards the girl when he was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Marseilles in the late 1980s.
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) estimated in 2021 that up to 330,000 children were mistreated from 1950 to 2020 in the French Catholic Church.
In response, the French bishops promised to undertake “a vast program of renewal” of their governance practices.
The French bishops have approved a series of resolutions concerning clerical abuses during their plenary assembly from November 3 to 8.
They took a further step towards the establishment of an interdiocesan canonical penal tribunal. They also approved the creation of an oversight council to advise bishops on the application of the 2019 law. motu owner Your estis lux mundiwhich set new standards for combating abuse and holding Church leaders accountable for their handling of cases.
A delegation of French bishops should go to Rome to meet the prefects of the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Dicastery for Bishops.
An episcopal conference communicated said the purpose of the visit was “to improve monitoring in French dioceses of procedures relating to bishops or archbishops who have been reported.”
Grallet was born in Rozelieures, in northeastern France, in 1941. He made his solemn profession as a Franciscan in 1968 and was ordained a priest the following year.
He was university chaplain in Besançon from 1977 to 1985, then in Strasbourg from 1985 to 1988. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Strasbourg in 2004 and archbishop of the former archdiocese in 2007.
Br. Michel Laloux, Franciscan provincial minister of France and Belgium, declared on November 16 statement that he had been informed of the canonical and civil investigations into the actions of Grallet on September 30.
“I immediately contacted the competent authorities – the apostolic nunciature – in order to discern the measures to be taken,” he said. “Indeed, from the point of view of the internal law of the Church, it is not up to the head of a congregation to take canonical measures against a bishop, even a member of this congregation. Since his episcopal ordination, Bishop Grallet has been under the sole jurisdiction of the Congregation of Bishops of Rome.
But Laloux said he suspended Grallet from a role in the province on November 4, pending the results of the investigation.
He added: “We, Friars Minor, are shocked by the latest revelations in the Church, like all the people of God. The mistakes made and the general climate of mistrust with regard to the institution call for great caution and stringent standards.
“Despite legitimate anger, let’s keep in mind that each case is unique. The case of Bishop Grallet is different from that of Bishop Santier and Cardinal Ricard, which has been reported in the press in recent weeks. It will be up to the courts to accurately determine the facts and their gravity.
Bishop Philippe Ballot from Metz said on November 16, Bishop Grallet was living in retirement with a small community of elderly Franciscan friars at Danne-et-Quatre-Vents in northeastern France and had “a ministry limited to the service of this community”.
“The moment that the Church is experiencing today in France, in the dioceses, is very trying,” said Bishop Ballot. “In this situation, I invite us to listen to each other, to allow exchanges, to welcome everyone’s word. and everyone, to take initiatives in this direction, it is together that we must live this painful moment.