Former Father Jean-Claude Mercier admitted during his hearing “slippage”, but considers having “helped thousands of young people a lot”.
A former abbot of the Hautes-Pyrénées, indicted and placed in pre-trial detention on July 12 for “rape of minors”, admitted “anomalies“Tuesday July 25 during a hearing before the investigating chamber of the Pau Court of Appeal when he requests his release, reports France Bleu Béarn Bigorre. The Advocate General has requested his continued detention.
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While in police custody, this monk had recognized “carnal pleasures” and “skids“with several minors, all consenting according to him.”I regret having made anomalies“, declared the former abbot Jean-Claude Mercier before the judges, while considering having “helped thousands of young people“.”If you knew all the good that I have done. I only receive ingratitude.“
Despite the risk of recidivism and pressure on the victims and witnesses retained by the investigating judge, this 81-year-old religious therefore asked for his release, in particular because of his state of health and his conditions of detention in Tarbes. “I suffered martyrdom“, he also declared in front of the judges. “Detention is not a hospital, that’s normal, but it’s been 15 days since I’ve eaten, I drank a little water, sometimes a yogurt. On your decision will depend my life or my death.“
“Children brought by force”
The hearing was an opportunity to take stock of the investigation, which concerns dozens of victims. At the time, in the 1990s and 2000s, some of the boys raped were 9, 11 or even 14 years old. Some were in summer camp in Tarasteix, another, older, had drug addiction problems and had paid sex with the abbot to be able to buy heroin.
Witnesses also described “children brought by force“at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de l’Espérance, families who received money in exchange for their silence or even a schedule”with Father Mercier’s favorites“.
The former abbot had been excluded from any clerical function by Pope Francis in December 2022. In April 2021, the commission responsible for investigating pedocrime in the Church of France had made a report to the Tarbes prosecutor’s office. Jean-Claude Mercier is the subject of at least seven complaints from men who say they were raped and sexually assaulted by him when they were minors. Apart from two victims, for whom the facts date from 2006, the facts are “very old and therefore prescribed“, explained the prosecution at the time of his arrest on July 11.