Bishop charged in sex scandal
PARIS, France -- A Roman Catholic bishop has been charged with failing to turn in a priest who, in a confessional booth, admitted to sexually abusing children.
Magistrates on Friday said that Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux heard Father Rene Bissey's confession and did not report the incident to the police but instead relieved the priest of his duties.
Pican is expected to stand trial in June, a justice official said.
This is the first time that the justice system has acted against a churchman for not disclosing confidential information -- raising legal questions about the traditional secrecy of the Catholic confessional.
Bissey was sentenced to 18 years in jail last October for the repeated rape of one boy and the sexual abuse of 10 others between 1989 and 1996 in a case that shocked France.
The priest stood trial after one of the main victims, now in his 20s, filed a formal complaint with police.
Testifying in Bissey's case, Bishop Pican declined to say if he had known about the assaults and insisted that the confidentiality of the Catholic confession box, where believers confess their sins to a priest, was paramount.
Lawyers for the families of the boys believe Pican knew of Bissey's sex crimes in 1996, two years before the priest was finally arrested.
Bissey was in charge of a parish near the city of Caen until 1996, when he was suddenly relieved of his duties after meeting Pican and sent to a religious retreat.
Six months later he was given a new parish in the Calvados region, where he again had contact with young people -- although none of the abuse charges related to this period.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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