SAINT-MARTIN-EN-VERCORS, France — When a lowly Roman Catholic father rebels in opposition to the church hierarchy, publicly castigating a outstanding cardinal’s dealing with of, is that an act of backstabbing in opposition to the establishment he serves or a courageous solo effort to assist reserve it? That’s the debate provoked by the actions of a priest in France, together with his outstanding step of petitioning the cardinal to resign. Judging from the sheaf of letters and playing cards that Rev. Pierre Vignon is clutching in his delicate, plump arms, his rebellion has divided churchgoers.
To hate-mailers, the beforehand nameless 64-year-old propelled into the highlight by his on-line petition launched two weeks in the past is an attention-grabbing egomaniac who’s courting catastrophe by taking over the influential archbishop of the southeastern metropolis of Lyon.
However largely, Vignon says, these writing to him are supportive. They embrace individuals who have themselves been abused by predator monks. He plucks one such “thanks” card from the pile and reads out loud.
“Due to you I wish to return to church,” its creator wrote. “After I do, I’ll consider the victims.”
Vignon clearly relishes being on the heart of the storm, with reporters now beating a path to the Vercors plateau in southeastern France the place the portly priest ministers.
The Vercors’ mountain villages and uneven terrain had been facilities of French resistance in opposition to Nazi occupation in World Struggle II. Vignon says he had members of the family within the resistance and that the area’s freedom-fighting historical past helped encourage his personal choice to interrupt ranks and name publicly for the resignation of Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon since 2002. Vignon faults the cardinal’s dealing with of a infamous alleged pedophile priest suspected of abusing Lyon boy scouts within the 1980s.
“I’ve all the time been unmanageable,” Vignon says proudly. “There comes a second when one has to say ‘No! No extra, that is sufficient!’ That is what I stated: ‘Sufficient.'”
On this present day, Vignon is especially buoyant as a result of his petition on change.org has simply garnered its 100,000th signature, a milestone that heaps extra strain on church leaders to decide on sides. After clambering out of his hoarse-sounding Fiat Panda, Vignon whipped out his cell phone to indicate how a pal texted him blow-by-blow updates: 99,980 signatures, 99,990, 99,995, and, lastly, 4 minutes later, 100,000.
“Champagne!!” messaged one other pal.
With a glint in his eye, Vignon could not assist however gloat.
“I do not know if Cardinal Barbarin will forgive me this joke, however he has such colossal vitality, which I haven’t got, that he’s usually nicknamed ‘The 100,000-volt cardinal.’ Now, sadly, he will turn into the 100,000-vote cardinal,'” Vignon stated.
Barbarin and different church officers are due in court docket in January to reply victims’ costs that they had been conscious of the Lyon priest’s alleged historical past of abuse and did not alert authorities. Barbarin has denied any try and cowl up the case and has been supported as “courageous” by Pope Francis.
Francis, too, is dealing with resignation calls over accusations by a former Vatican ambassador that he lined up for American ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Additional proof that Rome’s mounting cover-up scandal goes world: A number of weeks in the past, an Australian bishop was convicted and sentenced to a yr of house detention for failing to report a pedophile to police. And a Chilean cardinal was summoned to present testimony in a sex-abuse cover-up investigation.
Vignon says he is had no indication that Barbarin even learn his open letter. In it, the priest of 38 years argued that “we’re at a type of essential hours in historical past the place nice acts are required” and requested Barbarin: “You your self acknowledged administration errors. Why would you stay in place indefinitely having made them?”
The petition hasn’t prompted Barbarin to resign, but it surely has uncovered fissures within the French church. Those that have spoken in assist of Barbarin embrace Vignon’s personal boss, Valence bishop Pierre-Yves Michel. Michel and one other French bishop wrote in church newspaper La Croix that Barbarin should not resign and described assaults in opposition to him as an “ideological settling of scores.”
“I’ve violated the unwritten regulation that one should not make waves,” Vignon says. “Due to that I’ve acquired fairly a little bit of criticism from some colleagues and considerably conventional and conservative churchgoers.”
However he says coping with abuse and its aftermath have to be the church’s precedence.
“We won’t say ‘God loves you’ when there are such somber sordid tales that make one really feel sick and uncomfortable. No. No. At this level, the abscess have to be punctured, handled and healed,” he says.
Vignon’s supporters embrace a gaggle of alleged victims of Rev. Bernard Preynat, the Lyon priest beneath felony investigation on preliminary costs of sexual assaults on minors. Preynat, now in his 70s, confessed wrongdoings in letters to victims’ dad and mom and conferences together with his superiors, together with Barbarin. His final recognized abuses had been in 1991.
Francois Devaux, president of the “La Parole Liberee” (Carry the Burden of Silence) group, says Vignon took a danger in going public as a result of he would have appeared “a bit silly” had his petition garnered few signatures.
“For the primary time, a cleric is asking himself the query: ‘What about me? What’s my stance on this?'” he stated. “It’s a brave act. And that reveals up the passive complicity, the passive duty of others.”
He believes the success of Vignon’s petition may very well be a turning level in French church attitudes to abuse. After the petition surged previous 100,000 signatures, Devaux received an unsolicited name that very same night from a “very, very anxious” bishop asking “what can we do?” Devaux would not identify the bishop.
“The church, or some folks within the church, excessive up, are beginning to understand how critical the state of affairs is,” he stated.