Battling Bishop comes out fighting. Told in Rome he was doing too much to combat sexual abuse.

Bishop Ravel responds to his critics

In an interview in La Vie, Mgr Luc Ravel responded to the many criticisms made of him. Here are some extracts:

In November 2022, I was summoned to Rome by Cardinal Ouellet (Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops from 2010 to 2023, editor's note), who gave them to me orally, without me being able to take notes. I then sent in written replies on the factual reasons for which I was reproached.

What did Cardinal Ouellet accuse you of?

The root of the problem has always been governance. This is the reason why the Pope is asking for my resignation. In particular, this difficulty I would have with priests, who are terrorised by my handling of abuse. "You are doing too much," he said (Cathcon: I think given the question this is Cardinal Ouellet not Pope Francis). I don't dispute any clumsiness on my part, and I have no claim to infallibility. But I would have preferred it to be more factual. Was I authoritarian, or did I act authoritatively? I have never taken a decision without consulting those around me. Not necessarily my Diocesan councils, but personal councils: lawyers, doctors...

The Cardinal and the Pope

At this point, does the Cardinal tell you that you will have to resign?

Absolutely not. The decision rests with the Pope alone, and it was communicated to me in February 2023 by the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris.

You made your resignation public on 20 April 2023. Why did you wait two months?

I thought that resignation should be a fully free act, in conscience. The Holy Father's decision instantly imposed itself on me. Now, as no date had been given to me, I felt that I had to conclude the files that had just appeared. I preferred to do it when I had the means, rather than regret all my life not having taken certain decisions, concerning close collaborators for example.

Do you have any complaints about Rome?

I bow to the way the Church does things. Even if many of my friends, especially lawyers, question the internal audit system of our institution, I have tried to gain peace. In any case, the Lord's will is there. It is no longer a question of looking for who is right or wrong. In the case of a divorce, it is rare that the wrongs are all on the same side. Besides, I notice that the parish priests continue to do their work peacefully in my diocese. The whole Holy Week was magnificent, including the Chrism Mass in the cathedral. I reject the idea that this diocese is on fire because a few dozen people are calling for the resignation of the archbishop. This diocese is a living diocese, and the tremors from above do not necessarily make the people of God tremble.

Is it true that between February and April 2023 you tried to buy time by sending the Pope an inadmissible letter of resignation?

Stalling for what? No one had given me a date for my resignation. I explained to the Nuncio by email that I would do it, but that there were a number of matters I had to deal with. The Nuncio acknowledged receipt. Either it is a forced resignation, and I am obliged to talk about harassment. Or it is a resignation that is done in freedom of conscience, and in that case, it is up to me to set the date when I consider that the time is ripe.

Did you seek the support of the Ministry of the Interior, in the context of the Concordat in force in Strasbourg?

I met with the director of public liberties and the prefect, to find out if the State had anything to reproach me with. I recall that our Concordat situation is particular. I challenge anyone to tell me that I shouldn't have done it: I am appointed by the President of the Republic, before receiving the canonical investiture of the Pope. This is the very essence of the Concordat, which I have never wanted to call into question.

Your Episcopal governance has given rise to many comments. Why did you choose not to celebrate daily Mass with your collaborators in the chapel of the Episcopal Residence?

My predecessors celebrated in the morning, I proposed the evening. Everyone was free to come or not. During the confinement, we were all together. That I am being reproached for this today is part of my amazement. Why didn't they tell me this before?

The former diocesan bursar Jacques Bourrier was able to testify that you dismissed him in writing, a month before his retirement, by denying him access to his office. Why did you do this?

I did not dismiss him at any time, as he had resigned as of 9 September 2021, with effect from 30 June 2022. I simply suspended him from his duties, a few weeks before the resignation took effect, because of behaviour incompatible with the exercise of those duties, in particular the denigration of authority. All this was done with my lawyer. I am still waiting for someone to contradict me. In this story, the roles have been reversed, by presenting Jacques Bourrier as the victim. What if Bishop Ravel had acted because there were people who suffered from his behaviour? If I took this decision, it is because there were reasons, and serious reasons.


There is another persistent rumour about you. You would have missed the Chrism Mass on 12 April 2022, preferring to join the Strasbourg meeting of Emmanuel Macron. What is the truth?

When I heard this rumour, I was stunned. That day, I gave a conference to priests from a distance, because I had tested positive for Covid that morning. I told them that I couldn't go to the Chrism Mass because of this. At the end of the meeting, the organiser, Alain Fontanel (Strasbourg's En Marche municipal councillor, editor's note) suggested that I go and greet the Head of State, in the concordat tradition. I can admit that this was perceived as a clumsiness.

[A conference at a distance... on which we had published some photos which tend to show that the symptoms of Monsignor. are obviously not about Covid, but about memory...]

Why did you call for a vote for Emmanuel Macron on Good Friday 2022?

As an Archbishop, I called to vote, and to vote my conscience. The journalists then asked me what I was going to vote for, and I replied that as a citizen I was voting for Emmanuel Macron. Why should I have been forbidden to say so? This is a democracy. [...]

During Holy Week 2023, you took the decision to sanction your auxiliary bishop, Christian Kratz, in the context of the affair of the former chaplain of the episcopal college Saint-Etienne in Strasbourg, Emmanuel Walch. Walch committed suicide in January 2023, following a complaint against him in the summer of 2022. Why did you take this decision three months later, on the eve of the announcement of your resignation?

What was taken as a sanction was a precautionary measure. It is an ordinary act of government, which was taken in reflection and prayer. I had two options: to do nothing and leave it to my successor to deal with the matter, or to act while I was still in office. I am sorry that people took it as a revenge. It was a painful choice, which I made in good conscience, in the light of the serious information available to me. It was not the result of an arbitrary decision.

What do you reproach Bishop Kratz with? He was not the subject of the rape complaint.

I refer to the ongoing criminal investigation. For my part, I have done everything that canon law and civil law require me to do.

In October 2021, you met an alleged victim of Vicar General Hubert Schmitt, and you reported her to the courts. Why wait until April 2023 to remove him from your Episcopal council?

The investigation is still ongoing. After waiting for a long time, I took a precautionary measure corresponding to the presumption of innocence, with his agreement.

You must admit that the decision communicated by a letter slipped under Bishop Kratz's door was very badly perceived...

I didn't do it. I entrusted this letter to my chancellor, asking him to hand it over to Christian Kratz. Obviously, he didn't succeed.

Bernard Xibaut, the diocesan chancellor, told BFM Alsace on 5 April 2023: 'The archbishop thought that Monsignor Kratz was present and that he would be able to give it to him directly. Since he was not there, he ended up leaving the envelope under the door.

This is either a mistake or a lie.



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