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Twenty years: Bernard Preynat trial
For twenty years, “it happened every weekend, and during camps, it could be four or five children in a week”: ex-priest Bernard Preynat made Tuesday freezing confessions on the continuous frequency of sexual touching of which he is accused.
“For me, at the time I did not commit sexual assaults but caresses, cuddles. I was wrong. What made me understand it, these are the accusations of the victims”, defends the former priest 74 years old at his trial for pedophile attacks committed between 1971 and 1991, while he was officiating as vicar-chaplain scout in Sainte-Foy-Lès-Lyon (Rhône).
Its prey were scouts aged 7 to 15 at the time of the events, under the influence of this imposing, charismatic priest, adulated by the parents and the children themselves.
“I knew very well that these gestures were prohibited, caresses that I should not have done. Besides, it was in secret,” he admits, very straight at the helm, his arms alongside his body and his voice a little broken. “And that necessarily brought me sexual pleasure.”
On the sidelines of the hearing, Me Emmanuelle Haziza, the lawyer for one of the victims, Pierre-Emmanuel Germain Thill, believes that she is “faced with the largest sexual predator in the Lyon region. At the same time, he denies the sexual nature of what he did to the kids, but admits having touched hundreds and hundreds of children. “
At the helm, the applicant mentioned “four or five children in a week”.
“It’s almost a child a day,” says President Anne-Sophie Martinet.
François Devaux, one of the victims of Preynat and co-founder of the association La Parole Libérée admits: “the moment I live there at trial is the hardest I have experienced since the beginning of the case “. Before talking about the “hell” that he caused his parents – the only ones to have alerted the ecclesiastical authorities to the facts suffered by their son – to his entire family, “the violence” that inhabited him, his adolescence “very difficult, very complicated”.
– “Absolute power” –
For the first time, François Devaux, also speaks of his “suicide attempt”. “Before, I think, I was a bright child. After that, I lived a very dark life (…) flirting with very dangerous things”.
“Suffering, anger … Whatever the decision of this trial, the prejudice, the trauma suffered in my childhood will continue. My responsibility is that it will not happen again”, notes the one who, with La Parole Libéré, managed to bring the Archbishop of Lyon Philippe Barbarin to justice for his silence on the acts of Preynat.
However, at the time, when his parents removed him from the scouts following his confessions, he resented them despite the facts and the distress he saw in their eyes. Why ?
“A child, he says, he seeks to be interested in him. Being part of the protection of this adulated, powerful man, sharing a + secret + with him; the 10 year old child that I was believed to be the only one, was proud of it and felt in the right place. “
“We can do what we want with a child, it is enough that he feels unique …”.
Preynat “embodied an absolute hierarchy, an absolute power, someone who makes the link between God and men”, recalls François Devaux, before evoking the discomfort felt all the same when he found himself alone with him and “the very strong hugs, caresses on the thighs, kisses … “of the priest.
Called up, Bernard Preynat denied kissing the mouth. “I do not remember. Listening to the terrible consequences on his adolescence, his family, that because of me he tried to commit suicide, I am knocked out and measure the responsibility for my actions”.
Tuesday afternoon, other victims are due to testify. One of them, Benoit P., requested a private session before the resumption of the public hearing. Ten civil parties, out of 35 victims heard during the investigation, were constituted at the trial, many facts being time-barred.
The ex-priest, reduced to the secular state at the end of his canonical trial last summer, faces up to 10 years of imprisonment.