VERSAILLES, France - A priest in an ultra-conservative Catholic sect has been charged with rape and torture for acts allegedly committed during exorcisms involving three schoolteachers.
Versailles prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told AFP the 40-year-old priest with the Society of Saint Pius X, whose identity has not been released to protect the victims, was charged on Wednesday and is being held without bail.
He is facing charges of aggravated rape, torture and "committing barbarous acts" for the alleged assaults on three teachers at a private religious school in the western suburbs of Paris.
The prosecutor refused to provide further details, but newspaper Le Parisien reported Thursday that the assaults took place in the autumn of 2010 at the Notre-Dame de la Sablonniere school run by the sect.
It alleged he had first raped one teacher during an exorcism to purge her of the "evil" from a previous sexual assault.
He then used his "spiritual influence" to convince two other female teachers to undergo similar exorcisms, Le Parisien said.
It said the victims had claimed that acts of torture had been committed using a broom, a toothbrush and scissors during the ceremonies.
Questioned by police, the priest claimed no assaults had been committed, saying he had only "simulated" sexual acts.
The Society of Saint Pius X is a breakaway group of fundamentalist Catholics that strongly opposes the liberal reforms of the Catholic Church imposed by the Vatican II Council in the 1960s.
With 600,000 followers in 62 countries, the group founded in 1970 by French bishop Marcel Lefebvre has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism and far-right leanings. Lefebvre was ex-communicated in 1988 and died in 1991.