Associated Press picks up story on Pope’s sex abuse cover-up as archbishop in Argentina

The AP reported on the role of Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, in defending a celebrity priest who faced a sex scandal. The priest is now in prison.
Wed Sep 19, 2018 - 6:25 pm EST
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NEW YORK, September 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The American mainstream media have now picked up the stunning allegations that Pope Francis, as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, did his best to protect an abusive priest from justice.

The Associated Press (AP) published an article on August 18 detailing Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio’s role in Argentina’s most well-known clerical sex abuse scandal, which surrounded celebrity priest Julio Grassi. Grassi is now serving a 15-year sentence for sexually abusing minors and misappropriating funds meant for the charitable foundation he ran.

LifeSiteNews’ Latin American correspondent Matthew Hoffman presented his own report on this last week, but the story has featured in Spanish-language and Italian media for years.

The AP obtained a copy of the four-volume “forensic study” Bergoglio commissioned that concluded that Grassi was innocent, and interviewed one of Grassi’s victims, Gabriel. After challenges to Grassi’s conviction, Argentina’s Supreme Court had ruled that Grassi did abuse Gabriel when he was 13. Sitting beside his psychiatrist, Gabriel told the AP’s reporter that the Catholic Church had never reached out to him.

“I’d like for the church to say something, even though I don’t expect it will,” he said. “No one ever reached out to me.”  

“No one bothered.”

The AP focused on the attempts of the “forensic study” to discredit Gabriel and other abuse victims who spoke out.

“Under Bergoglio’s presidency, Argentina’s bishops conference in 2010 enlisted a leading Argentine criminal defense attorney, Marcelo Sancinetti, to research a counter-inquiry into the prosecutors’ case against Gabriel and two other former residents of Grassi’s Happy Children homes whose cases were thrown out in the initial trial,” wrote Nicola Winfield and Luis Andres Henao.

“In the four tomes, which were produced at an annual clip from 2010-2013, Sancinetti accused Gabriel of changing his story and trying to extort Grassi. But a court years earlier had already thrown out a criminal complaint filed by Grassi accusing Gabriel of extortion,” they continued. “Sancinetti compared the ‘current trials and condemnations with severe sentences based exclusively on the word of a person who calls itself victim of sexual abuse to the trials for witchcraft of the Middle Ages.’ And in the final volume and on his law firm’s website, Sancinetti said Francis in particular had commissioned the work.”

During his trial, Grassi himself praised Cardinal Bergoglio’s support for himself, saying that “Bergoglio never let go [of] my hand.”

Gabriel told the AP that he and the other victims were shocked by this remark.

“We were all like ‘wow!’ It was Bergoglio,” he said.

Neither Sancinetti nor the Vatican responded to the AP’s requests for comment, and Gabriel hasn’t had any luck in getting Pope Francis to respond to him. Gabriel told the AP that he and his lawyer brought a letter addressed to Francis to the Vatican Embassy in Buenos Aires shortly after his election in 2013. He asked for an audience with the Pope, but never received a reply.

“In fact, his lawyer said they were threatened at the embassy and don’t know what became of the letter,” the AP reported.

LifeSiteNews correspondent Matthew Hoffman says that he is pleased that the AP pursued the story, but he isn’t taking credit for it.

"We don't know if it was because of our article or because of the Italian coverage or both perhaps,” he said from his home in Mexico.

On September 14, Hoffman was the subject of an extended interview by Breitbart News Tonight. Host Rebecca Mansour called Hoffman’s groundbreaking LifeSiteNews article about then-Cardinal Bergoglio’s role in the Grassi case a “bombshell” and praised the website for its ongoing coverage.

“This article was amazing,” she said. “It was just one revelation after another.”  

During the interview, Hoffman revealed that the story had been covered in Latin America – especially in Argentina – and in Spain, but generally it hadn’t been reported by the international press.

“There’s never been a single investigative report that really puts the information together from years and years of coverage that they did in Argentina.”

Hoffman lives in Mexico and is fluent in Spanish, so he researched Pope Francis’ involvement in covering up the Grassi case for several weeks before putting it altogether.

“The story is a terrible one,” he said.   

Hoffman was particularly struck by Pope Francis’ refusal to meet with Argentinian victims of abuse. He hopes to get in touch with them himself.

“[Pope Francis] doesn’t seem to care about reconciling with victims of … bad priests,” he said.

  argentina, catholic, julio césar grassi, pope francis, sex abuse crisis in catholic church

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