SNAP speaks out as nuns face trial in the home country of Pope Francis over the abuse of deaf children
SNAP is glad to learn that the wheels of justice are moving forward in the horrifying case of child sexual abuse at the Antonio Provolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Mendoza . Two nuns and seven other female employees of the Institute went on trial Monday. The women are accused of aggravated sexual abuse, the corruption of minors, and covering up crimes against these most isolated and submissive children.
The Institute, founded in 1995, offered free education to boys and girls of humble means who had hearing and speech difficulties, with on-site boarding offered during the school week. The assaults took place between 2004 and 2016, and the school was shut down when the allegations came to light in 2016. The first sentences in the case were handed down in 2019 when two priests, a former altar boy, and a lay worker were found guilty of sexually abusing at least 20 former students aged 4-17.
The survivors who will testify against the women in the current trial hope for a similar victory, and we hope with them.
An index finger to the lips was one of the few hand gestures used at the school, a signal to be silent. Survivors traveled to Rome in February of 2020 to demand that Pope Francis release records on the clerics who abused them and other students. Those enrolled at the school not only suffered the horrors of sexual abuse but were also sometimes tied up and, in one instance, suffered the humiliation of being forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding from a rape.
"No Olvidar" means "Do not forget." Survivors of abuse by the nuns and other female employees at the Institute have held these signs tight in their hands as they have waited for their day in court, and we rejoice with them that their day has finally arrived.
Due to the pandemic restrictions, all testimony in the trial will be through a video feed, but for the first time in the lives of many of the former students it certainly will not include any gestures invoking silence. We believe that we can truthfully say that the accusations that first came to light in 2016 are a stain on Pope Francis's papacy. Sadly, it seems to us that no Catholic official knew more about the abuse at the Institute, and no one did less, than the Pope himself.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)