PARIS – A French court permitted on Monday the screening of an award-winning film based on true stories of sexual abuse within the French Catholic clergy that defense lawyers for one of the accused priests had attempted to block from being displayed, judicial authorities said.
Bernard Preynat’s defense unsuccessfully appealed on Feb. 1 to the Supreme Court in Paris with the aim of provisionally censuring the screening of François Ozon’s “Grace a Dieu” (“By the Grace of God”), which delves into the perspectives of three victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the French city of Lyon with a mix of indignation and empathy.
The judge ruled that the screening of the film in France would go ahead, with the premiere set to take place on Wednesday.
The court also said that a statement highlighting Father Preynat should “benefit from the presumption of innocence” would meet the requirements of the law, French media said the ruling added.
Preynat’s defense was battling to delay the screening until the entire court case had been closed. A definitive sentence was expected by the end of the year.
The film, which received the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Berlinale movie festival last week, explores how the three victims attempt to come to terms with their feelings of shame and their struggle to achieve justice by denouncing their abuser and the amoral cardinal who covered everything up.
Ozon, who had previously been awarded a Golden Shell in 2012 for his “In the House” at the San Sebastian movie festival in northern Spain, said during a press conference at the film’s presentation that although the plot had been attacked by leading Church figures in France, he had simply stayed true to the facts.
“A lot of ordinary Catholics are sick of their religion being associated with pedophilia and want the hierarchy to sort the problem out once and for all,” he added.
The 71-year-old Preynat was charged in 2016 when he was officiating under Cardinal Phillippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon.
Barbarin stood accused, alongside five others, of covering up abuse in his diocese at a correctional court in Lyon, a trial that ended on Jan. 10. Authorities said a sentence was expected for March 7.