DDF ruling permits Cardinal Ricard, who sexually abused minor, to vote in conclave, minister in diocese of residence
September 29, 2023
The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has barred Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard from public ministry outside of his diocese of residence for five years as punishment for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in 1987, La Croix reports.
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The dicastery’s ruling, according to La Croix, permits the 79-year-old retired archbishop of Bourdeaux (France) to vote in a conclave and to minister publicly in the diocese in which he currently resides, if the local bishop permits. Cardinal Ricard remains a member of the College of Cardinals and of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
The dicastery’s ruling, according to the report, came in late spring, when Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, was the dicastery’s prefect. The five-year ban on public ministry outside of Cardinal Ricard’s diocese of residence is renewable.
“Cardinal Ricard lives in total seclusion and is intelligent enough to understand that he needs to keep a low profile,” said Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille. Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard of Digne (France), in whose diocese Cardinal Ricard currently resides, added:
I don’t agree that Cardinal Ricard should celebrate in the Diocese of Digne for the time being, and I’ve told him so. I want the sanction to be applied here too.
But if tomorrow he moves to another diocese and obtains the bishop’s agreement to resume service, I won’t be able to stop him, because the exception provided for in the Roman sentence applies to the cardinal’s diocese of residence, not to the church of Digne.
Cardinal Ricard will celebrate Mass privately in the Diocese of Digne, according to the report.
Cardinal Ricard, appointed a bishop in 1993 and named a cardinal in 2006, is a former president of the French episcopal conference (2001-07). Pope Francis accepted his resignation for reasons of age in 2019.
In November 2022, Cardinal Ricard admitted abusing a 14-year-old girl in the late 1980s, when he was a parish priest, Reuters reported. Citing the statute of limitations, French civil authorities closed their investigation into the case in February.
The light canonical penalty imposed on Cardinal Ricard contrasts with the laicization of Theodore McCarrick in 2019 and recalls the light sentence imposed on Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agaña (Guam) for his sexual abuse of minors.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron, OFM Cap, governed the Church in Guam from 1985 until his removal from office in 2019. In August 2018, Pope Francis said he would personally decide Archbishop Apuron’s appeal after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty of sexually abusing minors. “I am waiting for the report and then I will pass judgement,” Pope Francis emphasized.
In 2019, the Congregation announced the judgment. Even though Archbishop Apuron was found guilty of multiple “delicts against the Sixth Commandment with minors,” a relatively light sentence was imposed: “the privation of office; the perpetual prohibition from dwelling, even temporarily, in the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Agaña; and the perpetual prohibition from using the insignia attached to the rank of Bishop.”
As a result of the judgment that Pope Francis said was his own, Archbishop Apuron, despite multiple acts of sexual abuse of minors, is free to minister publicly outside of Guam (with the permission of the local bishop), as long as he does not wear the distinctive insignia of a bishop.
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