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Versailles priest charged with rape, child abuse

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Versailles, France   /   Tue, May 14, 2019   /   03:33 pm
Versailles priest charged with rape, child abuse This photo taken on March 5, 2018 in Versailles shows a view of the Notre-Dame de Versailles church and the city of Versailles. (AFP/Ludovic Marin)

A Catholic priest in Versailles, west of Paris, has been charged with rape and the sexual abuse of a minor, the regional diocese said in a statement Monday.

Father Laurent Thuillier was charged on Friday with raping an adult and sexual abuse of a minor as well as "psychological harassment" and "sexually soliciting a minor under the age of 15," the local church authority added.

An enquiry had been opened in late 2016 after a complaint by a female parishioner and her then 13-year-old daughter.

Bishop of Versailles Eric Aumonier said Monday that he had "taken the necessary measures as soon as he was aware of the accusations," made against Thuillier.

The accused priest has been banned from contacting the complainant or her family members. He has also been relieved of all his parish duties, including conducting mass or hearing confessions.

The priest's lawyer Frederic Landon confirmed the indictment to AFP but said Thuillier "fiercely contests the facts alleged against him". 

The lawyer said he would ask for the case to be dropped.

In May 2016, a group of Catholic women in Versailles decried the "silence" and "dysfunctioning" of the Versailles diocese over the matter. They subsequently set up the "Like a Loving Mother" support group for victims of abuse by catholic clergy.

The group said in a statement Monday that the charges against Thuillier "are a relief after a two-and-a-half year process".

However it was "regrettable", the group added, that the victims should learn of this through a statement by the Versailles diocese.

The Catholic Church worldwide has been hit by a series of sexual abuses scandals, not least  in France where French cardinal Philippe Barbarin was handed a six-month suspended jail sentence in March for failing to report sex abuse by a priest under his authority.

Last week Pope Francis passed a landmark measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors, in a move which could bring new cases to light.