Last year it was reported that paedophile priest Mauro Inzoli, above, had agreed to pay out a sum of €125,000 his victims, aged between 12 and 16. Each received €25,000.
Inzoli, known as “Don Mercedes” for his love expensive cars and under-aged boys, was defrocked in 2012 but was later, controversially, welcomed back to the priesthood and told to live a life of prayer and humble discretion in 2014.
It is now reported that Pope Francis’ decision to reinstate Inzoli was apparently based on the belief that keeping offenders inside the Catholic Church is preferable to turning them loose.
Church authorities have argued that defrocking paedophile priests will prevent the Church exerting control over them, claiming that to do so would place them in the wider society where they may re-offend.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the restrictions are intended to ensure the priest’s conduct within the church is supervised and their access to children is prevented.
He defended the Pope’s emphasis on mercy, claiming that it applied to:
In contrast, during his eight-year papacy his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, defrocked 800 priests, who had raped and molested children and rarely granted clemency petitions.
Even those who are guilty of heinous crimes and priests who are found to be abusers are permanently removed from the ministry but are not necessarily defrocked.
The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult, but he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.
Inzoli is prohibited from celebrating Mass in public or being near children, and is barred from his diocese. He has also been ordered to undergo five years of psychotherapy.
Pope Francis overruled the advice given to him by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which recommended sterner penalties befitting the heinous crimes against children, but Inzoli was controversially, welcomed back to the priesthood. There was a public outcry in in the northern Italian town of Cremona, where the abuse took place.
Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission, said the Pope’s rulings for lenient sentences sends out the wrong message to abusers and survivors of abuse.
All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.
While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important. If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.