he bishop of the Diocese of Aire and Dax in southwestern France resigned after his behavior had caused “upset and confusion” for a number of young people in the diocese. Bishop Hervé Gaschignard had recently told his staff he “needed to rest outside of the diocese for some time” due to “fatigue linked to different causes.”
Bishop Hervé Gaschignard celebrating Mass. He resigned as Bishop of Aire and Dax on Thursday
Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of a French bishop after accusations of “inappropriate behavior” with young people.
Bishop Hervé Gaschignard had been bishop of the Diocese of Aire and Dax in southwestern France for five years.
The diocesan spokesman, Paul Perromat, told AFP that Gaschignard was suspected of “possibly inappropriate comments and behaviour” but added he has not been accused of “sexual aggression or acts.”
A statement from the diocese said the rumors of inappropriate behavior began circulating a couple of weeks ago, and the Vatican was informed about the situation.
The statement said Gaschignard, “conscious of the fact the situation changed the level of confidence in him and made the government of the diocese difficult,” informed the pope of his willingness to resign for the good of the diocese, and to facilitate the “search for the truth,” and the pontiff asked for the resignation later the same day.
The bishop also met with the state prosecutor, but the diocese said it had no knowledge of any complaint being made to the civil authorities.
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, issued a statement on Thursday saying he was approached by two people from the Diocese of Aire and Dax who told him Gaschignard’s behavior had caused “upset and confusion” for a number of young people in the diocese, and they had been speaking to their families about it.
The cardinal said he spoke to the bishop about the accusations on March 28 in Lourdes. Shortly thereafter, on March 31, Gaschignard surprised his staff by announcing he “needed to rest outside of the diocese for some time” due to “fatigue linked to different causes.”
Ricard also confirmed he had informed the state authorities about the situation.
Francis has appointed Bishop Bernard Charrier, bishop emeritus of Tulle, as the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Aire and Dax.
The French bishops’ conference issued a statement which said it “welcomed” the decision, and acknowledged the “gravity” of the situation, although a spokesman told La Croix “It is wrong to speak now about pedophilia,” warning against making too rash a judgement until the issue is properly investigated.
The French Church is still reeling over accusations Cardinal Philippe Barbarin did not report a case of clerical sexual abuse to the authorities, due to the fact he thought the priest had reformed.
Barbarin was among six church officials targeted in a case prompted by allegations that a priest had molested boy scouts in the 1980s.
Investigators questioned Barbarin about the situation in June 2016, but dismissed the case due to lack of evidence and the fact the statute of limitations had run out for several of the charges.
In November, the French bishops held a day of prayer and fasting for victims of sex abuse during their biannual plenary assembly in Lourdes, asking for forgiveness for the sins committed by members of the clergy.
The bishops’ conference also set up a new independent commission made up of secular experts in charge of advising bishops and helping them handle child sex abuse cases.