Roman Catholic Cardinal Ricard Admits to Abusing 14-Year-Old Girl

By Claire Giangravé
French cardinal ricard
Roman Catholic Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, France said on Nov. 7, 2022 that he had abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago and is withdrawing from his church functions. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, a member of the Vatican department charged with sanctioning abuse cases in the Catholic Church, admitted in a statement on Monday to sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago when he was a parish priest in his native France.

“I have decided not to remain silent about my situation and to place myself at the disposal of justice, both on the level of society and on that of the Church,” the cardinal said in a letter read by the president of the French Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, at a press conference.

“Thirty-five years ago, when I was a parish priest I behaved reprehensibly with a young 14-year-old girl. My behavior has necessarily caused serious and lasting consequences for this person,” the letter added.

Ricard said he apologized to the young girl and her family as well as all those who will be impacted by the revelation. The cardinal added that in light of this situation he will be “taking a time to retire and pray.”

Ricard, who headed the archdiocese of Bordeaux between 2001 and 2019, headed the French Bishops’ Conference from 2001 to 2007. He has occupied a number of important roles at the Vatican under Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He was appointed by Francis to the Council of Economic Affairs in 2014 and served until 2019.

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He is currently a member of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, besides overseeing doctrinal matters, is charged with investigating clergy abuse cases in the church.

French bishops are currently meeting for their fall general assembly in Lourdes, which has been reorganized to focus on the abuse crisis in the country.

The Catholic Church in France has been under fire since a 2021 report estimated that 330,000 children were abused by clergy in the country in a span of 70 years. Ricard is among 11 clergy members, including former Bishop Michel Santier of Créteil, who are currently under investigation for sexual abuse.

Beaufort told reporters that among the accused, six were bishops and one is deceased. The archbishop said that Ricard’s revelations came as “a shock” to the French episcopacy.

The Vatican announced that Santier was retiring in 2021 for health reasons, but the diocese of Créteil admitted that the bishop had been accused of sexual abuse in the 1990s. The Vatican did not reply to a request for comment.

Asked about the clerical abuse situation in France on his return flight from Bahrain on Sunday (Nov. 6), Francis underlined that abuse is a widespread phenomenon that for the most part takes place in the family and community. The pope added that the tendency to cover up abuse in the church has changed.

“In this awakening, making investigations and moving ahead with accusations, everything has not always (and everywhere) been the same, some things have been hidden,” Francis said. “That is why we should not be surprised that cases like this come to light.”

“It is a process that we are undertaking, and we are carrying it out with courage, and not everyone has courage; sometimes there is the temptation to compromise, and we are also all slaves to our sins, but the will of the church is to clarify everything,” he said.

Francis has enacted a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, enforcing the mandatory reporting of abuse to authorities and making sexual abuse a criminal offense at the Vatican.

Only three cardinals have been officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church for sexual abuse. In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër stepped down as Archbishop of Vienna following numerous reports of sexual abuse but never underwent a canonical trial. Benedict prohibited Cardinal Keith O’Brien from participating in the 2013 conclave due to abuse allegations; two years later, Francis stripped O’Brien of his cardinal rights.

In 2019, Francis defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of abusing minors and seminarians.

Editorial Note: The Roys Report does not normally publish stories on the Catholic Church, but primarily reports on evangelical/Protestant churches and ministries. However, we decided to run this story because of the cardinal’s stunning admission and the Pope’s response, signaling a possible turn in the way the church handles abuse allegations.

Claire Giangravé is the Vatican Correspondent for Religion News Service.


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10 thoughts on “Roman Catholic Cardinal Ricard Admits to Abusing 14-Year-Old Girl”

  1. Thank you for publishing this important story. The remarkable thing is the priest’s public confession.
    Sad that he did not publicly repent and confess years ago. It makes me believe that there were likely other victims, not just this single girl who has dealt with the trauma of clergy abuse.

    No church is exempt from the possibility of abuse, and the corporate culture within the Catholic church has historically been to move the problem priest from parish to parish after offering some time in retreat (and ostensibly counseling, though unclear what sort). That only changed with whistleblowing and public change in the laws. It seems no church will police itself and must be held accountable to report to authorities. I hope the laws are being consistently changed worldwide.

  2. Zero credit for admitting his crime, too late. Every word the Catholic Church says about their abuse problem is laughable if it were not so sad. Why people still attend the Catholic church is so weird. If a few hundred thousand confirmed abuse cases were levied against Walmart, or Disney Land would people continue to attend? These are epidemic numbers and these are just the abuse cases we know about. What kind of world do we live in where this is tolerated?

    1. People continue to attend SBC churches even after the expose of hundreds of abusive pastors. I don’t think protestants have any stones to throw here. the indignation won’t be righteous until we clean our own house.

      1. My righteous indignation is not about being protestant or catholic, just a human being. I am not throwing stones as a protestant or a catholic, just as a human being. These religious organizations are morally bankrupt, and so far from Jesus. They are more interested in protecting their organizations than they are protecting the most vulnerable. I do not know why anyone goes to either of these churches. All I can say is these people better get ready for their millstone. Matthew 18:6

      2. Kathleen Zielinski

        I’m far more interested in the question of why anyone takes seriously anything the Catholic church (or for that matter the SBC) has to say about sexual morality. If a former lawyer, disbarred for stealing money from clients, were to write a treatise on legal ethics, nobody would take it seriously. Nobody. Even if every word he wrote were true.

  3. This is equivalent to a “deathbed confession” to me. So this guy, who rose in the ranks of the Vatican for all these years and was even over investigating abuse allegations, finally confesses as his retirement looms? Are we supposed to be thankful for this? I wonder if there’s a statute of limitations in France and it ran out after 35 years. This man needs to spend time in a jail cell, not take time to “retire and pray.” He had the last 35 years to do that.

  4. In 1887 John Acton wrote “Great men are almost always bad men”
    I believe this to be true. If our “great men” were truly great, they would repulse in horror at being considered great and the wealth and power that goes with it. They would speak out against it and reject it and expose the systems that support this monstrous folly. They would then be killed; Crucified most likely.
    Yes- power corrupts as does wealth and privilege. -All the wealth and power and glory are mine to give to whomever I wish.-
    And woe to you when all men speak well of you. How can you remain a “great man’ of respect and prominence when you are allowing others to mistreat you and how can you remain wealthy when you allow yourself to be treated unfairly and you give to everyone who asks of you?
    How can you be great in this life when all your treasure is in the next? Those who tell you that you can have both are leading you into a pit.
    “Let the dead bury their own dead- you proclaim the Kingdom of God”

  5. Rabindranath Ramcharan

    If his Wikipedia entry is to be believed, His Eminence is about 78 years old. He may have come forward in anticipation of his case being remanded to a higher jurisdiction.

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