Watchdog group alleges Pope Francis covered up sex abuse
By Eric Morales
July 7, 2014
Buenos Aires - Pope Francis is accused of looking the other way when sex abuse occurred while he was still the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Pope Francis is just one year into his papacy and is considered by many as a champion of the poor, and the marginalized and on a day when the Bishop of Rome meets with victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, a report by Bishop Accountability could not have come at a worse time.
"In my diocese it never happened to me, but a bishop called me once by phone to ask me what to do in a situation like this and I told him to take away the priest’s faculties, not to permit him to exercise his priestly ministry again, and to initiate a canonical trial."
However, others would strongly disagree, according to BishopAccountability.org over 100 priests in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires offended against children, the watchdog organization goes on to allege in its report that at least a dozen of these such cases were known to Bergoglio.
Five cases of note are pointed out by Bishop Accountability that most certainly were known to Archbishop Bergoglio. In 2009, Fr. Julio César Grassi a priest in the suffragan diocese of Morón was convicted of molesting three young boys at a home for street children run by the Fundacion Felices los Niños (the Happy Children Foundation) which Grassi founded in 1993. As a suffragan diocese Bergoglio had limited authority in Morón, he could only step in at the sign of neglect by church authorities according to Canon Law.
Grassi was convicted of 32 counts of sexual abuse by one of the longest trials in Argentinian history. Throughout his trial Grassi boasted of the support he had of numerous bishops and in particular the support of Cardinal Bergoglio.
"(Cardinal Bergoglio has) never let go of my hand and is always at my side.” Grassi said.
As President of the Argentine Bishops' Conference Bergoglio approved the hiring of leading defense lawyer and scholar, Marcelo Sancinetti to conduct a private investigation into Grassi's conviction. The investigation concluded that Grassi was innocent of all the charges.
"(Justice will determine) Grassi's innocence although there is a media campaign against him, a condemnation in the media." Cardinal Bergoglio told Veintitres magazine in 2006.
In 2003 Father Rubén Pardo, a Catholic priest in Berazategui was found to be hiding from Argentine law enforcement in a Buenos Aires vicarage, teaching at a Flores neighborhood school and hearing confessions. Just a year prior Pardo had admitted to Monsignor Luis Stöckler to the rape of 15-year-old Gabriel Ferrini in a 'moment of weakness.' Pardo was instructed by an ecclesiastical court to leave the jurisdiction of his parish, refrain from saying mass and not to speak about the matter either publicly or in private. Two years after a criminal complaint was filed against him Pardo died of AIDS.
Cardinal Bergoglio served as a moderator in the ecclesiastical tribunal hearing in which the victim Ferrini was allegedly asked 'lascivious' questions concerning his sexuallity however Bergoglio was not present during the hearing.
Sebastián Cuattromo reported to the Vicar of the Flores district Father Mario Poli that when he was 13-years-old Brother Fernando Enrique Picciochi of the Society of Mary, molested him twice in 1989 and 1990, as well as another boy who was in the 7th grade. Picciochi fled Argentina and was arrested in 2007. Three years later he was extradited from Texas back to Argentina where in 2012 he was sentenced to 12-years in prison for sexually assaulting five children. Cuattromo alleges that Father Poli did nothing about his accusations against Picciochi.
In 2013, Pope Francis appointed Poli as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Father Mario Napoleon Sasso was diagnosed as a pedophile at a church-run treatment center in 2001. The following year Sasso was assigned to the San Miguel de La Lonja parish in the Zárate-Campana diocese, the parish also operated a community soup kitchen. It is there that between 2002 and 2003 Sasso is accused of raping five girls in his bedroom at the soup kitchen. Sasso fled Argentina with the alleged help of fellow officials in his parish. Sasso was arrested in 2006 after re entering the country from Paraguay to renew his passport. As his case languished in the courts victims families appealed to Cardinal Bergoglio, receiving no response.
At the Instituto Monseñor Stillo, a Catholic school in Flores Rev. Carlos Maria Gauna was accused in a criminal complaint of groping two teenage girls. In 2001 Archbishop Bergoglio stated he would personally 'resolve the priest's situation. ' According to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires' website is an active deacon and chaplain at a hospital.
At a time when many Bishops in the United States and throughout the world were taking proactive steps against child sex abuse in the Catholic church, Bergoglio issued no apologies during his time as archbishop, released no documents, and never listed any priests accused of abuse, or outlined any policy concerning the handling of abuse claims.
Today as Pope Francis, Bergoglio met with six victims of abuse, comparing the abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests to the performing of a satanic black mass.
“Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you,” Francis said during his homily, according to a text released by the Vatican. “And I humbly ask forgiveness I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.