By LifeSiteNews Paris correspondent Jeanne Smits
FRANCE, March 6, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A retired couple from the North-East of France received a prison sentence last week for having falsely accused a 71-year-old priest of sexual abuse.
Marie-Jeanne and Jean-Louis Martin of Baye-sur-Marne have been ordered to pay a fine of 500 euro each (the equivalent of $565 USD) and have also received a suspended prison sentence of three months for having mendaciously accused the priest, Father François-Jérôme Leroy, of having had sexual contact with four adolescent boys, in 10 separate letters sent to the judiciary and ecclesiastic authorities as well as associations for victims of pedophilia.
Compared with what the priest was to go through because of the slanderous accusation, the sentence handed down by the Châlons-en-Champagne court appears unreasonably lenient. In practice, the Martins have been let off with a modest fine – the maximum amount applicable for “slanderous denunciation” as false accusations are officially named in France, is of 45,000 euro, and five years imprisonment. Besides, they have appealed the sentence.
Fr Leroy himself was awarded damages of 1 euro, the symbolic minimum (1.13 US dollar), despite having been accused of a particularly disgusting crime.
The present climate of suspicion surrounding Catholic priests amid the sexual abuse crisis has created a situation where accusations are accepted and acted upon without question and deemed almost normal where clerics are concerned. In some cases, the innocent are paying for the sins of the guilty.
The affair itself is revealing of a new sort of presumption of guilt, brought in by a “zero-tolerance” attitude that leads church leaders to act against the priests for whom they bear responsibility without knowing whether they have actually done anything wrong.
In Fr. Leroy’s case, the price to pay was exceptionally heavy.