The bodies and atrocities are piling up at the Vatican’s door. Yet another massive scandal is unfolding, and it’s one from Pope Francis’ backyard. Twenty-four disabled children were repeatedly sexually abused by priests at the Antonio Provolo Institute for deaf children.

The children told prosecutors, ‘two Catholic priests repeatedly raped them by an image of the Virgin Mary inside the small school chapel in remote northwestern Argentina.’

The clerical sex abuse scandal unfolding at the Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing impaired children in Mendoza province would be shocking enough on its own. Except that dozens of students in the Provolo Institute’s school in Italy were similarly abused for decades, some of whom allegedly by the same priest who now stands formally charged with raping and molesting young deaf Argentines.

An international scandal is beginning to unfold; police arrested 82-year old priest Nicola Corradi, 55-year-old priest Horacio Corbacho, and four other men last week.

Corradi earlier had been accused in Italy of sexually abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Verona, Italy; a notorious school for the deaf where hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers.

The association of Provolo victims in Italy wrote a letter to Pope Francis on December 31st, 2013 asking for assistance in the matter, for the victims. The organization states that they received no form of solidarity or support, even after the Vatican concluded they had been abused in 2012.

The Vatican knew about Corradi in 2009 when the Italian Provolo students went public. The Vatican ordered an investigation and sanctioned four accused priests, Corradi apparently never was sanctioned for his alleged crimes in Italy. Even though the abused specifically mentioned him.

 

“Words fail. It is appalling and heartbreaking that Corradi was not stopped by Pope Francis or by other Church authorities. Corradi’s presence at the school in Mendoza was no secret,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.

There are hundreds of cases spanning across continents involving Corradi and the Provolo Institute, yet nothing has been done until now about Corradi? One of the Mendoza victims said: ‘From the pope down … all of the Catholic Church hierarchy is the same.’ They all knew.

“Thanks to the Church’s inaction, Corradi appears to have been able to replicate exactly the grotesque situation he enjoyed in Verona – a ring of child molesters in charge of utterly defenseless children who could neither hear nor speak. If the allegations are true, the pope must accept responsibility for the unimaginable suffering of these new victims.”

The Vatican and Pope Francis knew, yet no action was taken; was Pope Francis involved?

According to Bishop Accountability, Pope Francis plays a role in five separate sexual abuse cases in Argentina, while the Pope was known by his birth name Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

The factors that have produced disclosure by bishops and religious superiors in other countries – civil action by victims, investigations of the church by prosecutors, and governmental inquiries – have occurred little or not at all in the Federal Capital of Buenos Aires, which is the territory of the archdiocese. As a result, almost no information has emerged about Cardinal Bergoglio’s direct management of accused priests. Only one Buenos Aires archdiocesan priest – Carlos Maria Gauna – has been publicly accused. But in the high-profile cases of four child molesters from religious orders or other dioceses – Grassi, Pardo, Picciochi, and Sasso – there is evidence that Bergoglio knowingly or unwittingly slowed victims in their fight to expose and prosecute their assailants. Victims of all four offenders say that they sought the cardinal’s help. None of them received it, even those who were poor, struggling on the periphery of society – the people whom Pope Francis has championed. (According to Bergoglio’s former spokesman, the cardinal declined to meet with victims.)

• Fr. Julio César Grassi – Grassi was convicted in 2009 of molesting a boy who had lived in a home for street children that Grassi founded. After Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio commissioned a secret study to persuade Supreme Court judges of Grassi’s innocence. Bergoglio’s intervention is believed to be at least part of the reason that Grassi remained free for more than four years following his conviction. He finally was sent to jail in September 2013. See our detailed summary of the Grassi case with links to articles.

• Fr. Rubén Pardo – In 2003, a priest with AIDS who had admitted to his bishop that he had sexually assaulted a boy was discovered to be hiding from law enforcement in a vicarage in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires, then headed by Bergoglio. Pardo also was reportedly hearing children’s confessions and teaching in a nearby school. One of Bergoglio’s auxiliary bishops, with whom he met every two weeks, appears to have lived at the vicarage at the same time. Typically, an ordinary must give permission for a priest to live and work in his diocese. It is unlikely that Pardo lived and ministered in Buenos Aires without Bergoglio’s approval. See our detailed summary of the Pardo case.

• Brother Fernando Enrique Picciochi, S.M. – After a victim discovered that his abuser had fled Argentina to the US, eluding law enforcement, the victim sought Bergoglio’s help in getting released from the confidentiality order imposed by the cleric’s religious order. He conveyed his request in meetings with Bergoglio’s private secretary and with the auxiliary bishop, current archbishop Mario Poli. The archdiocese would not help. See our detailed summary of the Picciochi case.

• Rev. Mario Napoleon Sasso – In 2001, following a diagnosis as a pedophile at a church-run treatment center, Sasso was made pastor of a very poor parish with a community soup kitchen in the Zárate-Campana diocese. In 2002-2003, he sexually assaulted at least five little girls in his bedroom off the soup kitchen. In 2006, with Sasso in jail but not yet convicted, the parents of the little girls reportedly sought Bergoglio’s help. Bergoglio was then president of the Argentine bishops’ conference, and the soup kitchen was just 25 miles from the Buenos Aires archdiocese. Bergoglio would not meet with them. See our detailed summary of the Sasso case.

• Rev. Carlos Maria Gauna – Gauna was an archdiocesan priest under Bergoglio’s direct supervision. In 2001, two girls at a school filed a criminal complaint saying Gauna had touched them inappropriately. Bergoglio reportedly was going to look into it. Gauna still works in the Buenos Aires archdiocese. Notably, he’s now a deacon and a hospital chaplain – possible indicators that Bergoglio considered the allegations credible but decided to demote him rather than remove him from ministry. See our detailed summary of the Gauna case. – READ MORE

While there is more to be discovered about the true involvement of Pope Francis, it appears as though the Pope could be playing a similar role in the Corradi case. Which should raise stark questions about the ‘zero tolerance’ Pope.

Works Cited

Jennifer Newton. “Priests at Argentinian school for deaf youngsters 'would choose their victims to sexually abuse knowing other children would not hear them scream'.” DailyMail. . (2016): . . http://dailym.ai/2hkjDzF

Betty Clermont. “Informed twice about sex abuse of disabled children, Pope Francis did nothing.” Daily Kos. . (2016): . . http://bit.ly/2idrS4Q

Bishop Accountability. “Pope Francis and Clergy Sexual Abuse in Argentina.” Bishop Accountability. . (NA): . . http://bit.ly/2hpTWkv

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