The French priest who became a viral villain after video emerged of him slapping a crying baby during a baptism has been suspended by his Roman Catholic diocese.
The Rev. Jacque LaCroix, who is 89, can no longer perform baptisms or weddings, said a statement from the Meaux Diocese in France.
Lacroix told an interviewer on French radio that he didn’t know what to do with the crying child and that he was trying to calm it down when he slapped it in the face.
Crux Now, a Catholic news outlet, described the suspension as “mandated retirement.” The diocese says LaCroix will only be allowed to celebrate Mass upon approval.
The parents of the baby have accepted LaCroix’s apology and are happy that their baby is now baptized, Bishop Jean-Yves Nahmias told the Catholic publication.
“This gesture is all the more regrettable because the baptism is meant to be a happy moment, but tiredness and great age clearly played a part,” Nahmias said.
In its statement, the diocese noted that the video of the slap has circulated “in the press and social networks” since June 21. The baptism, the statement says, took place in Seine-et-Marne but does not say when.
“This short video is an excerpt from the celebration during which the baby cries a lot. The elderly priest loses his temper and slaps the child,” the statement says.. “Aware of this inappropriate gesture, the priest apologized to the family at the end of the baptism.
“This loss of coolness can be explained by the tiredness of this elderly priest, but that does not excuse him.”
The church noted that as of Friday, the video had been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube and social media networks. “To this day, it arouses indignation and anger,” the statement says.
According to People, the 43-second YouTube video appeared last week on Reddit with this caption: “A priest slaps an infant during his baptism.” The Reddit user wrote, “this happened today in France, I’m really shocked.”
Reddit has since removed the video. The page where the video was originally posted has a message that reads: “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, it is being removed due to the following reason(s): Rule #7. No videos of assault/battery or public freakouts.”
In an interview last week with France Info radio, LaCroix explained the smack, which visibly shocked the baby’s parents, as the video shows. The baby’s father is seen wrestling the baby, with some difficulty, away from the priest’s reach.