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French bishops appoint head of independent abuse panel as controversy continues

April 26, 2016

The Catholic bishops of France have named a senior government bureaucrat to head a new independent commission to advise the hierarchy on the handling of sex-abuse complaints.

Alain Christnacht, who has served in a variety of posts, mostly under Socialist Party political leaders, will chair the Independent National Expert Commission on Child Abuse. The French bishops had announced the formation of the new panel earlier this month. The French bishops' conference has indicated that the commission will be composed mainly of psychologists, doctors, youth leaders, and parents; its work is expected to begin by this summer.

The commission was created at a time when Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon has been under heavy public criticism because of complaints that he mishandled the case of an accused priest, Father Bernard Preynat. Cardinal Barbarin has insisted that he acted immediately when complaints were brought to his attention, and never covered up evidence of abuse. However he has acknowledged that the Lyons archdiocese "committed errors in the management and assignment of certain priests" in the past. A previous archbishop had restored Father Preynat to active ministry after a brief suspension following earlier accusations.  

The appointment of Alain Christnacht to head the new advisory panel drew complaints from traditionalist French Catholics, who took note of his work for politicians who had pushed for legalization of same-sex marriage. Christnacht brushed aside that criticism, saying: "I am not an enemy of the Church."

 
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