French Priest Says Bishops Punished Him for Abuse Petition

In this Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 photo, Father Pierre Vignon holds a letter in Saint-Martin-en-Vercors, France. (AP Photo/John Leicester, File)

PARIS (AP) — A Catholic priest said Friday that he has been punished by church leaders in France after he gathered more than 100,000 signatures for a petition calling for a cardinal to resign over his handling of child sexual abuse cases.

The Rev. Pierre Vignon said he learned in an email Thursday that he would no longer be considered for the church court where he has served as a judge since 2002.

In a phone interview, Vignon said the decision showed church leaders are of two minds about how to deal with sex predators within the Catholic clergy.

“They say, ‘We want to do everything,’ but to whistleblowers, ‘We want to shut you up,'” Vignon said.

The email stated Vignon was no longer a church judge but did not explain the reason for the decision made by 12 bishops who oversee the area of southeast France where he ministers, the priest said.

Vignon’s online petition in August called for the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who has been the archbishop of Lyon since 2002. Vignon faulted the cardinal’s handling of a notorious alleged pedophile priest suspected of abusing Boy Scouts in Lyon during the 1980s.

Barbarin and other church officials are due in court in January to answer victims’ charges they were aware of the Lyon priest’s alleged history of abuse and didn’t alert authorities. Barbarin has denied any attempt to cover up for the alleged abuser and supported as “brave” by Pope Francis.

Vignon said Friday he accepts the bishops’ decision and has no regrets about petitioning for the resignation of an influential church leader.

“It changes nothing, not an iota,” he said.

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