The founder members of the association ‘La Parole Libérée’ (Lift the Burdon of Silence), were all involved in the Saint Luc Scout Group in the parish of Sainte Foy-lès-Lyon from the beginning of the 80s up until the start of the 90s.
For some, the group was to play a positive part in an exciting but sensitive part of their lives, accompanying them from childhood into adolescence and onto adulthood, all, whatever the level of their faith at the time or their relationship with ‘the priest’, both during their time as boy scouts and after, endeavoured to respect the values of the scout movement as resumed in the Scout’s Promise, and for years many continued to share and talk about the memories which they had forged during their scouting years.
If all were not actually subjected to acts of sexual abuse by the priest who led the group, they may all be considered victims of his wrong-doing, even if, here, our aim is not to compare the varying degrees of traumatism associated with the numerous definitions of the term ‘victim’,
A victim is: any person who has been subjected to acts of sexual aggression, whether on one occasion or repeatedly.
A victim is: any person who has been groped/fondled.
A victim is: any person who feels tainted or let-down by the fact that within the Saint Luc Scout Group to which he belonged, such acts could have taken place.
A victim is: any person who feels guilty for not having noticed anything, for not having, as a child, been able to interpret certain signs.
A victim is: any person who, having ‘told’, was confronted by a lack of understanding from their family and as such was made to feel isolated.
A victim is: any family which has had to face certain hidden, hard to accept truths about the Saint Luc Scout Group.
Decisions taken which have resulted in the reporting of incidents of abuse to the legal authorities, along with the forming of this association and its website, have not been driven by hatred. They have simply resulted from the ardent desire of those wronged as children now grown into men, who have now become fathers, members of society at large, to help see justice done; both that of men and of the Church.
With one or two rare exceptions, for years victims have simply suffered in silence. Those who were able to speak of their experiences to their families were sometimes lucky enough to be heard, and whilst certain parents or guardians reacted by having their child leave the scout group, by speaking to the offending priest or writing letters to the Church authorities, unfortunately there were also those whose reaction was to be disbelief and denial.
For many, it would only be with the campaign launched by François Devaux, President of ‘La Parole Libérée’ and its ensuing media coverage, that their memories, blacked out for so long, would resurface as having been reality and that the burden of silence would finally be lifted.
Indeed, as any victim support professional will confirm, certain victims of sexual abuse by a paedophile will build such a strong defence system into their lives, blocking out deeply traumatic experiences, that, through fear of seeing everything they’ve built up as a survival mechanism fall apart, theirs will be a very lengthy period of hesitation before deciding to speak out and testify.
Even if most of the crimes involved here are governed by statutes of limitation, making a statement to a sympathetic listener, in addition to the relief it may bring the victim, adds to our file of evidence which is getting a little thicker every day.
The testimonies on this site (see ‘Testimonies’) are both disturbing and harrowing. Father Bernard would appear to have used his two-fold status of Scout Leader and man of the cloth as a cover for his crimes. Indeed, some of his victims’ families were actually close to the priest, inviting him to their homes to share meals on a more or less regular basis, and he also used to receive donations “for all the good he was doing for the children of the Saint Luc Group’.
These testimonies also raise questions about the role of those adults who managed the scout group. In light of the testimonies which have been made and the frequent reoccurrence of certain incidents as now revealed, how could it have been possible that no one ever witnessed anything, that no one ever suspected what was going on and that still today, when there is proof to support the veracity of the testimonies made, (see ‘Les Aveux’ confessions), there are still those who continue to be in denial?
This, most likely, may be attributable to the aura of a priest who was very charismatic and who, everywhere he officiated, knew how to win over the adults in his parish.
Testimonies received indicate that the Saint Luc Scout Group was not the only place the priest offended, and that he continued to abuse children when he was Chaplain at ‘La Favorite’ school. Our association also intends to lend a voice to these victims.
Finally, what can be said about the role of the religious authorities who were informed of what was happening by certain parents as early as 1990? Indeed, what can be said about the ‘disciplinary action’ which was taken against this priest and which merely consisted of moving him on three occasions, without any concern to ensure that he was no longer in contact with children nor, indeed, would ever again be until the end of his time in office? Was this down to laxism? Was it due to disbelief? Was it complicity? Whilst it is not for us to judge, we trust that those; the executors of both secular and spiritual justice whose place it is, will. For our part, we believe it is in the Church’s interest that action now be taken.
In this respect, reading letters which were written by the priest is also enlightening
(see "Les Aveux" - confessions). Revealing the shallowness of his soul, he is more concerned about loss of face than saying sorry, accepting to pay for what he did and being shamed in public which, even if it would not have resulted in him being excused, would at least have been an indication that he was aware of the suffering he may have caused; this at least constituting a glimmer of dignity and humanity.
All of these factors as described led us to create the association ‘La Parole Libérée’–
Association for the Support of Former Members of the Saint Luc Scout Group, Victims of Sexual Abuse’ (Fr.: La Parole Libérée – Association d’Aide aux Anciens du Groupe Saint Luc Victimes de Pédophilie). Behind the name and role of the association, as indicated in its full title, should, as you will no doubt have gleaned, be understood ’victims of the priest who lead the Saint Luc Group’, although this also includes acts of abuse he may have committed outside of the scout group which he started. In order not to prejudice the present Saint Luc Scout Group which is today affiliated to the Federation of Scouts of Europe, we take the precaution of stressing the period during which the abuse took place was ‘from 1970 to 1991’, as we do not wish to infer that such incidents are still taking place. Paedophilia is neither synonymous with scouting nor with the Prelature
We hope that our association will serve to unite those who were victims of this priest, as it is evident that coming forward as a group, what’s more one which is determined, is preferable to acting alone.
Whilst we are, admittedly, in the process of structuring our association, we also hope, none the less, to be able to help victims build themselves up again, or at least help alleviate the trauma from which they may still be suffering.
Help can be offered by listening to victims, providing them with a platform for expression or by putting them in touch with a councillor, which, in effect, actually reflects the spirit of scouting, its image sadly tarnished, and its principles of mutual aid and solidarity.
Regardless of how you, personally, may be a victim, please join our association today.
If you are the close friend, acquaintance or relation of a victim who wants to see the truth break out, join us today.
Whether you simply feel like helping us by offering your support, by sharing your skills, knowledge, contacts, time, or indeed if you wish to help us financially, join us today.
Today, for the burden of silence to be lifted, justice must be done and for that we need your help.