The Vatican has received a new report containing allegations against French Bishop Michel Santier, who resigned in 2021 following accusations of spiritual abuse but said publicly that he was stepping down for health reasons.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, Santier’s metropolitan archbishop, announced on Oct. 20 that “other people” had come forward claiming that the retired bishop had committed acts against them when they were young adults.
“Yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 19, after having heard directly from one of these victims, I immediately sent a report to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith via the apostolic nunciature,” the archbishop of Rouen said.
“There is no doubt that the dicastery will conduct a new investigation in the face of revelations that accentuate the seriousness of the facts of which Bishop Michel Santier is accused.”
Santier resigned as leader of the Diocese of Créteil, in the southern suburbs of Paris, on Jan. 9, 2021, two years before the customary retirement age of 75.
In a letter to his flock in June 2020, he explained that “the polluted air of the Paris region” did not suit him and had led to diagnoses of asthma and sleep apnea.
The bishop, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in April that year, said that he had decided to resign because he would “not have the physical strength to continue my ministry among you until I am 75 years old” and had undergone “other difficulties.”
But the Catholic magazine Famille chrétienne reported on Oct. 14 that Santier’s early resignation was linked to the “spiritual abuse for sexual purposes perpetrated against two adult men” in the 1990s.
French bishops confirmed that Rome had taken “disciplinary action” against Santier in October 2021 for the acts, which emerged in 2019. The two men asked to remain anonymous.
In an Oct. 21 statement, French bishops’ conference president Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort acknowledged that the revelations had provoked “shock” among French Catholics.
“The feeling of betrayal, the temptation to be discouraged are emotions that I understand and that run through us, as well as the incomprehension and anger of many before the acts themselves,” he said.
“I also hear and receive the criticisms made about the lack of communication of the Roman measures when they were enacted.”
“There can be no impunity in the Church, regardless of the function of the person involved.”
Moulins-Beaufort said that the French bishops would reflect on the way that the results of investigations are communicated to Catholics at their plenary assembly in Lourdes on Nov. 3-8.
“We will bring to Rome the fruit of our reflections and our proposals to improve what can be improved,” he said.
French Catholics have been shaken by a series of abuse scandals in recent years.
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) concluded in 2021 that as many as 330,000 children were abused from 1950 to 2020 in the French Catholic Church.
In response, the French bishops promised to undertake “a vast program of renewal” of their governance practices.