The village curé …

Photo: The church in Marcilly-le-Hayer (copyright Notrefamille.com) Marcilly-le-Hayer is a charming village in the Aube region of France. The Aube, as the Michelin Guide will tell you is in north-central France. It is 98 miles or 157 kms south-east of Paris which will take you about 1h45 to reach by car. The village, where about […]

Photo: The church in Marcilly-le-Hayer (copyright Notrefamille.com)

Marcilly-le-Hayer is a charming village in the Aube region of France. The Aube, as the Michelin Guide will tell you is in north-central France. It is 98 miles or 157 kms south-east of Paris which will take you about 1h45 to reach by car.

The village, where about 650 people live, is the kind of place that makes you say, “I could live here,” when you drive through it. It is picturesque with old stone houses on narrow streets and lanes.

In the centre of the village stands an old stone church. Close by is a two-story sandstone building. It is the home of the village’s curé: Père Breton – Father Breton. Father Jacques Breton who had arrived in the village in 2008.

The French live by the dictum Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés – to live happily, live hidden, which comes from Voltaire’s Candide. Today, we know that Father Breton lived happily and hidden: he had demons and he hid those from the villagers.

The Marcillons (the men) and the Marcillonnes (the women) as the villagers are known had no idea that their kind priest had demons. Irish priests did. American priests did. Etc. Etc. Etc. But French priests did not; one did a few years back and left the priesthood and married his lover. Fortunately for him she was a woman so the people felt compassion for him instead of the disgust they would have felt had the lover been a man; somehow it’s acceptable to a degree if a priest sleeps with a woman, but not when he is sleeping with a man.

But yes, Father Breton had demons and a few days ago the regional paper l’Est Éclair revealed that he was being investigated for “sexual aggression against a minor and being in possession of pornographic images of minors.”

Voilà. Allegedly, France too had a pedophile priest. I am using the word allegedly because by law one is innocent until proven guilty here in France as just about everywhere else.

The story is that a young adult man went to the gendarmes because Father Breton had sexually assaulted him. The assault had happened on the night of Saturday, November 28 of last year (2009) when the young man was still a minor. He was a choir boy and he had called in on the priest at the latter’s home to discuss a problem. The gendarmes took in the priest for questioning and found images of a pedo-pornographic type on his computer; plainly speaking photos of naked children.

Father Breton did not deny that he had taken the photos but he had done so in all innocence as holiday souvenir snaps he said. He has now been charged with “sexual aggression against a minor and being in possession of pornographic images of minors.” He has been released on bail and the church is looking after him at a secret address. He will stand trial later this year.

The Bishop of Troyes, the region’s capital (64,000 inhabitants) issued a statement that one must not judge without knowing all the facts. He did though say that “their” thoughts were with the victims: yes victims. By “their” I presume he means the Church. He said Mass himself last Sunday at the village’s church and shook hands with the stunned parishioners; he looked every bit the “Man of God” in his purple robe, a playful spring wind ruffling his silver hair.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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