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Vatican files suit after French court rules in favor of fired nun


The Holy See has formally protested to France after a French court ruled that a former senior Vatican official was responsible for what the court said was the unfair dismissal of a religious order nun .

According to French media, the Lorient court ruled in favor of the nun Sabine de la Valette, then known as Mother Marie Ferréol, on April 3. She was forced to resign from her religious order, the Dominicans of the Holy Spirit, after a Vatican investigation.

In a statement Saturday, the Vatican said it had received no notification of such a verdict, but that the ruling nonetheless constituted a “serious violation” of the right to religious freedom.

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis commissioned Cardinal Marc Ouellet, then head of the Vatican bishops’ office, to lead an investigation that ended with a series of canonical measures taken by the Holy See against Valette, including his expulsion after 34 years of detention. a nun in the order.

The statement also raises potential diplomatic issues, given Ouellet’s immunity as a cardinal and foreign government official. The Holy See is internationally recognized as a sovereign state.

According to French Catholic daily La Croix, the Lorient court found the nun’s expulsion unfounded and ordered Ouellet, the religious order and other defendants to pay more than 200,000 euros ($213,000) in material damages. and moral, as well as fines. The defendants are appealing, La Croix said.

The Vatican frequently conducts such internal investigations into religious orders or dioceses, which can be triggered by complaints of financial mismanagement, sexual or other abuse, or governance problems. She considers that the measures she takes are exclusively internal to the life of the Catholic Church.

Consequently, the decision of the Lorient court constitutes an unusual intrusion of secular justice into the internal affairs of the Church, which gave rise to a diplomatic complaint from the Holy See.

The French justice system appears increasingly willing to prosecute even high-ranking religious leaders, far more than in Italy, and particularly over allegations related to clergy sexual misconduct and cover-ups.

In 2020, for example, a French appeals court threw out a lower court ruling that convicted Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of covering up sexual abuse of minors in his flock.

The same year, a Paris court convicted a retired Vatican ambassador to France of sexually assaulting five men in 2018 and 2019 and gave him an eight-month suspended prison sentence. The Vatican lifted the immunity of the ambassador, Monsignor Luigi Ventura, allowing the trial to continue.


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