Catholics Issue Scathing Report on Help Clergy Gave War Criminal

The French Catholic Church has issued a scathing report documenting the help that Catholic clergy gave to a prominent French Nazi war collaborator.

The report on the aid given Paul Touvier is the result of an inquiry by the French Catholic Church and corroborates accusations that have been leveled by Nazi-hunters and Jewish groups.

According to the report, published this week, it is clear that a very large array of French clergy, from monks to archbishops, literally went out of their way to hide Touvier and help him in other ways, said noted French historian Rene Remond, who chaired the panel.

But the church, as such, was not involved in the coverup, Remond found.

The inquiry was commissioned last year by Cardinal Albert Decourtray, archbishop of Lyon and then head of the French Catholic Church.

During World War II, Touvier headed the Vichy Milice, or Militia, in Lyon.

According to the report, he was especially helped by members of what is known as the traditionalist wing of the church, which rejects the Second Vatican Council and Catholic-Jewish rapprochement.

The report underscored the help given Touvier by two high clergy: Cardinal Jean Villot, who was Vatican secretary of state and former archbishop of Lyon, and Villot’s secretary, Monsignor Charles Duquaire.

Villot died in 1979; Duquaire died in 1987.

According to the report, Touvier became Duquaire’s obsession.

Remond, in trying to grasp the clergy’s attitude, wrote, “Some of his defenders hailed in (Touvier) the victim of a plot of the everlasting enemies of true faith: Freemasons, Jews, communists, democrats, all those Touvier had sworn to combat and to render harmless.”

TWICE CONDEMNED TO DEATH

Touvier, who is now 76, was known for his brutality. He was twice condemned to death in absentia for crimes against humanity.

He was arrested in 1947 but escaped, and police never apprehended him until May 1989, when he was found in a Catholic priory in Nice.

It was reported that Touvier and his wife hid out in various convents until 1971 or 1972, when he was secretly granted an official pardon for his wartime crimes by the late French President Georges Pompidou. The statute of limitations on war crimes had come into effect, but that was before the French judicial system recognized crimes against humanity.

The pardon was later rescinded, however, and Touvier once again went into hiding.

Last July, Touvier was released from jail on $10,000 bail after a closed-door court hearing. No reason was given for approval of his bail request.

As a condition, however, his passport was confiscated and he was barred from talking with the news media. He must report to the police once weekly.

Responding to the report, Jean Kahn, head of CRIF, the representative body of French Jewry, said he was not surprised by the findings.

“We can only regret the attitude of some circles of the Catholic Church,” he said. “We learned with bitterness that even some of those who helped Jews during World War II later helped criminals to escape justice.

“This attitude shows an unacceptable concept of justice and pardon.”

A court is to decide within a month whether Touvier will stand trial for his crimes.

Two other French war criminals yet to be tried are Rene Bousquet, who was in charge of the Vichy police, and Maurice Papon, who ordered the deportation of the Jews of Bordeaux.

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