Pope Refuses to Accept Resignation of Cardinal Convicted of Sex Abuse Cover-Up
Pontiff turns down French Roman Catholic cardinal bid to leave church
Pope Francis has turned down the resignation of the French Roman Catholic cardinal convicted of failing to report sex abuse allegations.
Philippe Barbarin said he had put forward his resignation, but that 'invoking the presumption of innocence, the Holy Father declined to accept this resignation.'
Barbarin's statement was later confirmed by a Vatican spokesman, who said the Pontiff instead asked Barbarin during their audience to do what he considers is best for the Lyon archdiocese.
But Barbarin chose to take time away while requesting his deputy to assume archdiocese leadership.
Barbarin was found guilty of failing to report sex abuse allegations by Reverand Bernard Preynat in the 1980s and early 1990s.
He traveled to the Vatican to offer Francis his resignation on Monday.
Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement on Tuesday that the Vatican remains close to sex abuse victims along with the French faithful 'who are living in a particularly painful moment.'
Barbarin was one of the highest-ranking officials caught up in the pedophilia scandal that shook the Catholic church.
Barbarin was once tipped as a future Pope, had said: 'I cannot see what I am guilty of. I never tried to hide, let alone cover up these horrible facts.'
As the case broke three years ago and lawyers for nine adult plaintiffs, the former boy scouts who were reportedly abused by the priest, took legal action.
According to The Daily Mail: Since the abuse relates to acts committed before 1991, prosecutors had declined to press charges because of the statute of limitations.
The trial went ahead only because the plaintiffs avoided the prosecutor's office and insisted, as they are entitled, on putting their case before a court.
Under French law, the court can still convict and even jail the suspect, despite the prosecutor's position.
Barbarin and his co-defendants have disputed covering up the scandal, with the Archbishop stating he found out the full story about the priest only after it became public.
Preynat, who was charged with sexual abuse in 2016, is expected to be tried later this year.
Church leaders first interviewed him in 1991, but Barbarin only suspended him and prevented him from working with children in September 2015.
Plaintiffs point to a correspondence in 2015 between Barbarin and the Vatican, which advised him to dismiss the offending priest 'while avoiding public scandal.'
Jean Boudot, the lawyer for the victims, accused Barbarin of being a 'liar' when he said he had only learned of the breadth of the damage in 2014.
Barbarin said he confronted Preynat, about the abuse 'rumors' in 2010 but let the matter drop after Preynat insisted he had changed.
In 2014, after meeting with one of the priest's victims, Barbarin contacted the Vatican about the affair, but he only removed the priest from his post a few months later.
Two other French religious figures were sentenced for failing to report child abuse in the past: the archbishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, Pierre Rican, in 2001, and the former bishop of Orleans, Andre Fort, last year.
Pope Francis last month promised an 'all-out battle' to tackle every single case of sexual abuse by priests, comparing pedophilia to 'human sacrifice,' but drew an angry response from victims.