Pope Involved in New Sex Abuse and Dirty War Cases per Argentine Press

by Betty Clermont –

Recent Argentine articles reported the pope’s personal involvement in the sexual torture of children (one of the two UN committees the Pope Francis obstructed and ignored “found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”) and his role in the aftermath of the Dirty War.

His envoy heaped insult on top of injury after Pope Francis, informed of horrible sex abuse, did nothing and children suffered.

On May 19, the priest sent by the pope to investigate the horrific sexual assaults in the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Argentina, dismissed some cases because, he said, children can be “spiteful. For example, [when] a girl or a boy falls in love with a priest, and he doesn’t respond back.” On the same day, the pope’s representative stated he was refusing to cooperate with the civil court prosecuting the atrocities.

By open letter and video message “handed to Pope Francis” in May 2014, former students at the notorious Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Italy begged the pope for justice. More than one hundred deaf and mute children had been sexually abused at the boarding school.

The letter told Pope Francis that three of the Italian perpetrators – including Fr. Nicola Corradi – held current positions at the Provolo Institute in Argentina. The pope took no action to stop the pedophiles.

Corradi and four others in the Argentine school were arrested in Nov. 2016 and charged with raping and molesting at least 22 children. Other reports poured in and “it’s now thought that as many as 60 children fell victim to abuse.”

Prosecutors said the alleged anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden, basement and chapel. “Victims said they were taken to the Casita de Dios (the little house of God) where they were forced to perform sexual acts on one another and made to watch other students being abused.”

“One of the alleged victims said she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex.”  Another accused a nun “of making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was raped by a priest” when she was five years old.

“The tormentors” knew “the other children wouldn’t hear the screams as they were deaf.”

Nevertheless, “the pope appeared in a video using sign language to wish deaf people worldwide a Merry Christmas.

In April, Pope Francis sent Fr. Dante Simón to investigate.

Simón said he brought no interpreter for the deaf with him so he could only talk with some of the victims’ acquaintances and family members. Yet he was able to conclude that “A few (cases) have been dismissed because there are people who are spiteful. For example, a girl or a boy falls in love with a priest, and he doesn’t respond back. The boy can be very spiteful like a woman can. So, they denounce him (the priest),” Simón said on May 19.

“Simón’s statements caused an emotional crisis” because he denied some of the crimes had taken place, according to a lawyer for the victims. (Suicides of clerical sex abuse victims “are over 30 times the rate in the general population.”)

The civil court asked Simón to turn over all documents in his possession relating to the Provolo Institute by May 19. The pope’s envoy said he refused because a 1966 treaty between the Vatican and Argentina “gives the Church independence in its internal investigations. Therefore, the collected information may not be shared with the ordinary judiciary.

Pope Francis assisted the defense of Argentina’s most famous pedophile priest and has not responded to victims.

In the midst of the Provolo reports, a case involving the pope when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio reappeared in the news.

On March 21, the Supreme Court of Argentina confirmed the 15-year sentence for aggravated sexual abuse and corruption of minors against Fr. Julio Grassi and dismissed the appeals.

“An authentic media star, the most famous religious in Argentina,” Grassi “raised huge sums of money for his foundation, Felices los Niños, which housed 6,300 children of the street.” In 2002, “Argentina was speechless” when an investigative TV program showed three of those poor children accusing Grassi of sexual abuse.

Grassi was “like a power within the Church. He had 26 defense lawyers, the best in the country, the most expensive, something never seen,” explained Juan Pablo Gallego, the victims’ attorney. Grassi wasn’t convicted until 2009 and not imprisoned until 2013.

Cardinal Bergoglio was silent, but he did commission and pay for a 2,600-page study on the Grassi case which concluded that the priest was innocent. “His intervention is believed to be at least part of the reason that Grassi remained free for more than four years following his conviction.”

Fifteen years after the television expose, Grassi has not been defrocked. His victims have sent Pope Francis several messages which remain unanswered. One of them sent the pope a letter asking to see him and “help him recover the lost faith with the abuses of this priest” but also received no reply.

The pope has “a huge challenge in his own home” which “he has decided not to visit for now,” said Gallego.

Pope reneged on promises to make archives public

During a May 2-6 conference held by the Argentine Episcopal Conference (CEA), the bishops announced that access to the Church’s documents relating to the 1973-82 Dirty War would be highly restrictive.

After a military coup, the junta and their hired killers “disappeared” an estimated 30,000 persons even suspected of opposition to the government. There were “child murders, mass executions and a harrowing array of other daily war crimes;” “kidnappings in broad daylight, sadistically creative forms of torture, (abusing children in front of their parents, torturing wives in front of husbands) and murder of hundreds of the alleged 30,000 by means of drugging and dropping living bodies into the sea from planes and helicopters.”

“Historians have established the Catholic Church’s links to and support of the Argentine military during its reign of terror. For decades, Church authorities have refused to acknowledge the role they played in those years; on several occasions, they have hinted at the need for ‘reconciliation,’ a coded reference to amnesty.”

It was reported in May 1995 that the “Vatican Embassy in Buenos Aires kept a secret list of thousands of people who ‘disappeared’ during Argentina’s Dirty War which it failed to make public at the time.” One member of the junta, General Jorge Rafael Videla, confirmed in a 2010 interview released in 2012 that “he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of  ‘disappearing’ political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to ‘manage’ the policy.”

Cardinal Bergoglio was called to testify in 2010 and 2011 about his conduct during the Dirty War. He invoked the clerical privilege of testifying from his office and not the courtroom. In two of his three testimonies, Bergoglio was questioned about the Church’s records.

Part of his testimony in November 2010:

Attorney: Do any records exist in some archive of the Catholic Church?
Bergoglio: I suppose so, but I don’t know for sure.
A: Are those files under your control?
B: The central archive of the CEA (Conference of the Catholic Bishops) is under the control of the CEA
A: And who supervises the CEA?
B: I do.
A: So, could you locate it [the archive]?
B: I can look for it, but not sure I can find it.

Part of his testimony in September 2011:

Investigator: I would like to conclude by asking that we come to an agreement on the manner in which the tribunal can gain access to this valuable documentation, as it is public knowledge and widely known that the Church has much of the documentation …. I’m wondering if there will be an agreed upon way we can find and get to see this documentation.

Bergoglio: Yes, I have no problem with that. I will instruct the custodians of the archives to do so.

As Pope Francis, he promised he would make the archives – especially the lists of “hundreds of babies who were snatched from political prisoners” –  public in April 2013,  April 2015, and March 2016. This last time, a Vatican spokesman said that first the records needed to be studied and agreement reached with the CEA. Then they would be released only by “specific legal questions requested by rogatory [a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance] or matters of a humanitarian nature.”

The May assembly of the CEA confirmed that “only those victims and relatives or judges and prosecutors who request them during the investigation of the causes for crimes against humanity” would have access to the documents.  And “the only archives they can request are those in which the name of the victim sought after is mentioned. Those interested have to complete and submit a request to the Secretary General of the CEA, who has the authority to reject the request outright.”

Human rights groups weren’t happy with the new protocol. “Through this method, they will give bits of information to each family …. with a filter from the CEA beforehand. Which means they also won’t give information linked to the intervention by the Catholic Church’s members to the last military dictatorship,” said the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo,

Estela de Carlotto, head of that group, recalled that she met Pope Francis in the Vatican and “asked him to open the archives.” Carlotto “accused the Church of endorsing the torture and failing to provide access to ‘some 3000 letters and documents’ held by the bishops, in the Vatican and the Vatican embassy in Buenos Aires.

Nora Cortiñas, leader of another human rights group, criticized Pope Francis for never giving a “homily for the disappeared, for the political prisoners.” For Cortiñas, the bishops’ announcement is “one more hypocrisy” by the Church. She said, the Church “knows the truth” about what happened during the dictatorship. She accused the Church of being “a participant in the horror” and a “bridge for the delivery of the babies of the pregnant captive mothers who gave birth and of giving those babies to families of soldiers, policemen, businessmen.”

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When Pope Francis visits Colombia in September, it will be his fifth trip to Latin America but not to Argentina. Unlike the current pontiff, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI made multiple trips to their native countries including shortly after their election to the Chair of St. Peter. We’ll have to wait and see if the Pope Francis will ever go home.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos