Listen to this story:
ROME – French Catholics are reeling after a series of recent abuse revelations, including a top prelate’s confession of misconduct, with the latest involving a priest who is accused of drugging and raping a teenager earlier this month.
In a Nov. 10 statement, Archbishop Pierre d’Ornellas of Rennes said he learned with “sadness and pain” that a priest in his archdiocese, Father Yannick Poligné of the Parish of Saint-Louis-Marie in Brocéliande, has been indicted for “aggravated rape of a minor and drug abuse.”
D’Ornellas assured the victim of his “full support” and compassion, saying he understands the “the pain, anger or amazement” that both faithful and clergy of the archdiocese might be experiencing, especially Poligné’s parishioners and those in other places where the priest exercised his ministry.
“Many have trusted him and feel betrayed,” d’Ornellas said, and announced that he will visit the Brocéliande parish this weekend and will be available to meet with and listen to parishioners who wish to speak with him in the coming days.
“With them in particular and with all the faithful, the priests, the deacons, the consecrated women of the diocese, we will go through this ordeal together in faith in the Lord Jesus,” he said, noting that many will be scandalized by the announcement.
He assured members of his diocese of his “determination to act,” and pledged his full cooperation and that of the archdiocese with civil authorities, saying he has already reported the facts of the case to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith “in order to launch a canonical procedure in parallel.”
Born in 1970, Poligné is accused of arranging a meeting with 15-year-old on a dating app, and meeting the teen at a hotel in Paris, where he allegedly offered the teenager drugs and initiated sexual intercourse.
He was arrested the night between Nov. 3 and 4 and was indicted Nov. 7 on charges of aggravated rape of a minor and drug use. He is suspected of having administered the drugs to the teenager without their knowledge in order to impair their judgement and control their actions.
Poligné was ordained a priest in 1999 and was subsequently sent on mission to Bruz, where he worked with the community of l’Arche, an association that welcomes and cares for adult individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Subsequently, from 2010-2014, he served in Cesson-Sévigné, Rennes, Betton, Melesse at the parish of Saint-Grégoire, and in Redon. He also oversaw the pastoral care of health at the diocesan level.
This latest scandal comes after the bombshell announcement earlier this week by a prominent French cardinal that he had also acted inappropriately with a teenage girl over 30 years ago and was resigning from his religious duties.
In a statement Monday, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, 78, said that “Thirty-five years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a young girl aged 14,” admitting that his conduct at the time “has inevitably caused serious and lasting consequences for this person.”
Ricard said he had been in touch with the victim and had asked her forgiveness, though he did not offer specifics. He also asked forgiveness from “all those I hurt.”
His admission, and the news about Poligné, comes amid a tumultuous period for the French church.
A year ago, a report conducted by an independent commission was published estimating that some 330,000 children had been sexually abused by priests or other church representatives over 70 years.
The report also described what it said was “systemic” coverup by church officials.
The Vatican has also been conducting several diocesan inquiries for various reasons, mostly related to management and routine governance.
Over the summer Pope Francis ordered an apostolic visitation of the Archdiocese of Strasbourg which, according to a diocesan press release at the time, was arranged after the Vatican received information “relating to the pastoral government of the Archdiocese of Strasbourg,” with local media saying there had been numerous complaints against Archbishop Luc Ravel’s management style.
The decision to launch a visitation into the Strasbourg archdiocese follows a separate visitation into the Diocese of Toulon that concluded earlier this year, resulting in an unusual delay of the diocese’s priestly ordinations.
Last year, shortly after the report on abuse in the French Catholic Church was published, allegations were made in French magazine Le Point against the former archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, accusing him of engaging in a consensual, intimate relationship with a woman.
Aupetit denied the allegations but offered his resignation to the pope in response to the intense public backlash the article had created. Pope Francis accepted Aupetit’s resignation in December
This latest scandal involving Ricard, though he had already retired from his regular duties, sent further shockwaves around not only the French church, but the Catholic world as a whole given Ricard’s influence in the French Catholic Church, and his previous membership in prominent Vatican departments.
News of Poligné’s alleged misdeeds will likely only add fuel to the fire for faithful struggling in France as further scandals emerge.
In his statement, d’Ornellas offered his availability “for all those who will need it,” and provided the number of both the diocese’s listening center, as well as an independent service assisting victims of abuse.
“May the Lord console and strengthen everyone on this path of justice and truth, at the service of those who suffer,” he said.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen