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Elderly Couple Prosecuted for Accusing Catholic Priest of Child Sex Abuse

Pair accuses priest of abusing grandchildren and other young boys

 on 7th March 2019 @ 12.00pm
the elderly couple received fines and suspended jail sentences for making accusations against the priest © press
The elderly couple received fines and suspended jail sentences for making accusations against the priest

An elderly couple has been prosecuted in court for making allegations of child sex abuse against a Catholic priest.

74-year-old Marie-Jeanne and Jean-Louis Martin, 70, of Baye-sur-Marne, North-East of France, have been ordered to pay fines of 500 euros each ($565 USD) and received three month suspended prison sentences after they accused the priest of sexually abusing their grandchildren and other young boys.

The retired couple was found guilty in a French court of making false accusations against the priest, Father François-Jérôme Leroy.

The Martins sent 10 separate letters sent to the judiciary and ecclesiastic authorities as well as associations for victims of pedophilia, which made allegations that Leroy had sexual contact with four adolescent boys.

The pair has appealed the sentence that was handed down by the Châlons-en-Champagne.

The maximum amount applicable for “slanderous denunciation” as false accusations are officially named in France, is a fine of 45,000 euro, and five years imprisonment.

The court awarded Father Leroy token damages of 1 euro, the symbolic minimum (1.13 US dollar).

The present climate of suspicion surrounding Catholic priests amid the sexual abuse crisis has led to a rise in allegations against clergy members.

Without evidence required for a conviction, however, making allegations against the Catholic Church could have serious repercussions.

the couple received suspended jail sentences for accusing the priest of child abuse © press
The couple received suspended jail sentences for accusing the priest of child abuse

No incriminating evidence

According to La Croix, in their letter, which was sent to prosecutor Eric Virbel, the Foyers de Charité leadership and Bishop François Touvet of Châlons, the Martins alleged that Father Leroy, who was in charge of the Foyer de Charité at Baye in France's Marne region, had displayed "excessive behavior" in his interactions with children.

More seriously, they alleged that they personally knew the victims and also reported rumors of other even more questionable actions.

After receiving the letter, Bishop Touvet and the Foyers of Charity then reported the allegations to prosecutors, who launched an investigation.

Father Leroy was removed from his leadership post at Foyer de Charité, a retreat house, and made himself available to legal authorities, who examined the allegations reported by the couple.

But inquiries by the investigators found nothing to incriminate the priest.

father fran ois jér me leroy says the allegations harmed his reputation © press
Father François-Jérôme Leroy says the allegations harmed his reputation

No intention to cause harm

The case was closed in autumn 2018 and would have ended there if Father Leroy's reputation had not already been harmed by the affair, which by then had become public.

Arguing that anonymity was "no longer tenable," Bishop Touvet not only announced that the priest had been suspended from the Foyer de Charité for the duration of the investigation but also divulged his identity.

In an effort to restore his name, the priest lodged a complaint about making a false report on July 20.

According to L'Express newspaper, the Martins continue to insist on the truth of the allegations made in their 2018 letter to the authorities.

Interviewed by La Croix, the couple's lawyer insisted that the report was only made available to prosecutors and Catholic authorities and that Bishop Touvet alone was responsible for media publicity over the matter.

"The report was not public and there was no intention to cause harm," said the couple's lawyer, Jean Chenais.

"That is turning the facts upside down!"

Meanwhile, the Châlons-en-Champagne prosecutor agreed that it was necessary to rehabilitate Father Leroy's reputation as well as that of the victims of pedophile priests.

"This discredits all other victims and the nobility of their fight," he told L'Express.

"We will only be able to protect them if false accusations are prevented."

tags: pedophile | Pope
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