SAccording to the Public Ministry, the allegations only reached prosecutors in May of this year, when lawyers for the Archdiocese of Paris and a Catholic group called Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP) presented a report on an attempted rape committed by Bishop Georges Colomb in 2013.
The journalistic investigation website Mediapart assures, however, that important figures in the Catholic Church have known about the accusations for years.
The French Episcopal Conference stressed today that the bishop disputes the accusation and deserves the presumption of innocence, adding that Colomb asked the Vatican to step aside from his duties in order to prepare his defense.
Colomb led the MEP between 2010 and 2016, when he became a bishop.
According to French media, the man who accused him — whose name was not released — was staying at the MEP premises at the time of the incident.
After the alleged attempted rape, the man reportedly told another MEP manager what had happened.
This person in charge, Gilles Reithinger, said, in statements to public radio France-3, that the man told him that Colomb proposed giving him an oil massage, which made him uncomfortable, but that he did not mention any sexual irregularity.
Reithinger, now Bishop of Strasbourg, claimed to have raised the issue with Colomb’s superior at the time, but saw no reason to report the incident to prosecutors.
Colomb was detained for questioning last week and the magistrates presented a preliminary indictment on Friday, as reported by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, noting that the bishop was under judicial supervision and prohibited from contacting the victim or witnesses while the investigation was ongoing. .
The Conference of Bishops expressed, in a statement, “concern for the alleged victim” and offered support to “all those who are disturbed or hurt by this news.”
France is facing a major scandal, with allegations of abuse hidden for decades by figures linked to the Church.
The French Bishops’ Conference agreed to provide compensation to victims after the publication in 2021 of a report that estimated that around 330,000 children were sexually abused over 70 years by priests or other figures related to the Church in the country.
The estimates were based on broader research by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research into child sexual abuse.
Read Also: Sexual abuse? Church cannot accept “any silence or concealment”
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