A former French archbishop admitted Wednesday to “inappropriate acts” with a young adult woman several decades ago, with prosecutors later confirming they were investigating him for possible sex crimes.
The confession by Jean-Pierre Grallet, 81, deepens a gathering storm around the French Catholic church which has been sparked by fresh revelations of sexual abuse by senior clergy.
Grallet said in a statement that he “profoundly regretted” his actions in the 1980s when he “strayed” and “hurt someone” before being named archbishop of Strasbourg in eastern France in 2007.
He gave no further details, but the Strasbourg prosecutor’s office confirmed that an investigation had been underway since January for “incidents of a sexual nature”.
The current archbishop of the city, Luc Ravel, said he had notified prosecutors after a woman approached him and outlined alleged abuse by Grallet.
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Last week, the Bishops’ Conference of France announced that 11 former or serving French bishops had been accused of sexual violence, including a cardinal who confessed to assaulting a minor more than three decades ago.
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, a retired bishop of Bordeaux, admitted publicly to “reprehensible” acts with a 14-year-old girl in the 1980s.
Any criminal behaviour by Ricard and Grallet is likely to be deemed too long ago to prosecute under French law.
The church was rocked last year by a report that revealed the vast scale of abuse of minors by priests, deacons and lay members of the Church.
The inquiry found that 216 000 minors had been abused by clergy over the past seven decades, a number that climbed to 330 000 when claims against lay members of the Church were included, such as teachers at Catholic schools.
Grallet claimed that he “strayed” and “hurt someone,” adding that he had asked the woman for “forgiveness.”
The Strasbourg prosecutors’ office was not immediately available for comment.
© Agence France-Presse