Surprise Surprise. New Pope Made Little Effort To Stop Pedophile Priests in ArgentinaPosted: March 19, 2013
The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reports that Pope Francis was “often quiet on Argentine sex abuse cases” when he was Archbishop.
Miroff focuses the article mostly on a charismatic priest named Julio Cesar Grassi, who formed a foundation ironically called Felices los Niños, “Happy Children,” as well as raising money “schools, orphanages and job training programs for poor and abandoned youths, winning praise from Argentine politicians and his superior, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.” But in 2009 Grassi was convicted
Today, Grassi is a convicted sex offender who remains free on a conditional release after being sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2009 for molesting a prepubescent boy in his care.
Yet in the years after Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — has declined to meet with the victim of the priest’s crimes or the victims of other predations by clergy under his leadership. He did not offer personal apologies or financial restitution, even in cases in which the crimes were denounced by other members of the church and the offending priests were sent to jail.
Grassi was reportedly very close to Archbishop Bergoglio; that is troubling to Argentinian child advocates because Grassi is still a priest and has managed to stay out of prison with the help of the Archdiocese.
…[C]hurch officials led by Bergoglio commissioned a lengthy private report arguing that Grassi was innocent.
The report was submitted as part of the priest’s legal appeal, which is pending, and prosecutors say the document has helped Grassi avoid jail time so far. A court has granted him a provisional release that allows him to continue residing across the street from the classroom and dormitories of Happy Children.
The school/orphanage is now closed and in a state of disrepair.
“He gave with one hand, but he took away with the other,” said neighbor Sabina Vilagra, whose husband worked as a janitor at the foundation and was called to testify in the trial.
“He had his favorites — always boys,” said her daughter, Florencia Vilagra, who also worked at Happy Children at the time.
“He would give them bicycles or toys and would designate one as his special ‘secretary,’ ” she said.
There were three accusers in the trial — given the names “Ezequiel,” “Gabriel” and “Luis” to protect their identities — who ranged from ages 9 to 13 at the time of the abuse, according to prosecutor Juan Pablo Gallego.
Child abuse experts say that Bergoglio “evolved” over the years, and he doesn’t appear to have been involved in any cover-ups; in fact he may have been the one to tell a Grassi accuser to contact the police. But the same experts say that other cases slipped through the cracks, including that of Mario Napoleon Sasso, who after being accused of abusing children in the “early 1990s,” was
sent to a private rehabilitation center for wayward clergy, La Domus Mariae (the House of Mary), north of Buenos Aires. He lived for two years at the center and was then reassigned to work in a soup kitchen for poor children in a town outside the capital. There, he went on to sexually abuse girls as young as 3.
“His bedroom was adjacent to the cafeteria, and it had the only bathroom in the chapel,” said Moreau, the attorney for the victims’ families.
Moreau said that in 2003 he accompanied two nuns and a priest who had denounced Sasso, along with the victims’ families, to a meeting with the Vatican emissary in Buenos Aires. He said the families were told to be “patient” and were offered gifts of rosaries “blessed by the pope.”
Sasso was finally convicted in 2007.
Sadly, I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that the new Pope–like his predecessors–is implicated in the Catholic Church’s endless child abuse scandals.