The Pope and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are keeping schtum about the arrest in Argentina of a priest arrested on suspicion of child rape.
The Independent reports that Pope Francis had been told as early as 2014 that the Rev Nicola Corradi, 82, had been reassigned to a school in Argentina despite earlier accusations of abuse in Italy.
He was named in a scandal that hit the institute’s Verona school in Italy in 2009, when 67 students alleged they had been abused. The Verona diocese apologised to students there and the Vatican sanctioned four priests, though not Corradi.
In 2014 the students sent the Pope a letter – acknowledged only this year – again naming him as an abuser now living in Argentina.
When Corradi was arrested police reportedly found $34,000 along with magazines featuring naked women in his room.
Two dozen students have said they were attacked by Corradi, the Rev Horacio Corbacho, 55, and three other men at the school in Lujan de Cuyo, a city about 620 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.
One told AP:
They always said it was a game: ‘Let’s go play, let’s go play’ and they would take us to the girls’ bathroom.
The Pope told US victims of clerical abuse last year that “all responsible will be held accountable” and called for stronger “oversight to ensure that youth are protected”.
His Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has announced that newly-appointed bishops will get comprehensive training on how to deal effectively with the root causes of child abuse.
But in February the commission was hit by the sudden departure of British anti-abuse campaigner Peter Saunders from the Vatican, who accused the panel of doing nothing to erase the culture of cover-ups within the Church authority.
In June, Pope Francis announced that clerics can now be dismissed from office if they are shown to neglect their duty of care towards vulnerable children and adults, in addition to creating a legal framework which allows for abusers to be tried in the Vatican.
Prosecutors in Mendoza expect more people to come forward with claims of abuse and they said that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been told about the allegations.
Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, has not spoken publicly about the case and the Vatican declined to comment on Corradi’s arrest.
According to this report, advocates of sex abuse victims by priests are questioning how the Pope could have been unaware of Corradi’s alleged misdeeds, given he was publicly named by the Italian victims starting in 2009 and most recently in 2014.
Said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability, an online resource about clerical abuse:
No other Pope has spoken as passionately about the evil of child sex abuse as Francis. No other Pope has invoked ‘zero tolerance’ as often. No other pope has promised accountability of church superiors. In light of the crimes against the helpless children in Mendoza, the Pope’s assurances seem empty indeed.
Said Carlos Lombardi, an attorney who specialises in canon law:
Either he lives outside of reality or this is enormously cynical … it’s a mockery.
Victims and prosecutors in Argentina said that anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex allegedly committed by the priests took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden and a basement at the school in Lujan de Cuyo, a city about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.
The school has “a little chapel with an image of the Virgin and some chairs where the kids would get confession and receive the communion. That’s where some of the acts were happening,” former lead prosecutor Fabrizio Sidoti said after the scandal broke.
Children from other regions of Argentina who lived at the dorms were said to be especially vulnerable and targeted often. The tales they have told are harrowing: One of the alleged victims told AP she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex.