January 25, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Recent revelations concerning Pope Francis and negligence over sexual abuse of minors are calling into question his strong words condemning the cover-up of sexual abuse.
In March 2014, in an announcement that received massive publicity, Pope Francis promised a new, more improved Vatican response to the clerical abuse of minors. He reaffirmed that the Vatican would institute zero tolerance for pedophile priests. He announced the creation of a new papal commission on child protection made up of Cardinals, experts, and victims of clergy abuse. This past May, Pope Francis spoke of the scandal again by saying, “This is a tragedy, we must not tolerate the abuse of minors. We must defend minors. And we must severely punish the abusers.” Yet, there appears to be a gulf between his words on reform and the reality.
The following six cases suggest a grave disconnect between Pope Francis’ public gestures on the sexual abuse cover-up and his actions.
1. The Fr. Inzoli case: Shocking papal intervention on behalf of a sexual predator
Earlier this month, Michael Brendan Dougherty reported the troubling case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli, who was accused of molesting children, including in the confessional. In 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) found him guilty and defrocked him. Yet, shockingly, Inzoli won a reprieve from Pope Francis.
According to Dougherty, the Pope’s close collaborators, Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Fr. Inzoli. Pope Francis reversed the action of the CDF and returned Inzoli to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to “a life of humility and prayer.” Coccopalmerio is a trusted confidante of Francis. However, the flashy “Don Mercedes,” as Fr. Inzoli was known, did not follow these admonishments. Dougherty reports, “In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.”
This past summer, civil authorities concluded the trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses, while another 15 charges were beyond the statute of limitations. Inzoli was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months by the Italian Court.
2. The sex abuse victims of the Argentina/Italy Provolo Institute for Deaf and Mute
In December 2013, a group of deaf and mute students from the Italian Provolo Institute in Verona who were sex abuse victims of Fr. Nicola Corradi wrote directly to Pope Francis notifying him that Corradi had sexually abused them and informed the Pope that Fr. Corradi was still in ministry with deaf and mute children in Francis' native Argentina. The letter to Pope Francis details the heartbreakingly brutal treatment of abuse victims by the Vatican:
We are a group of former students of the Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf and Dumb of Verona (Italy) who told the press about the abuses committed by paedophile priests at the Institute. This was done only after three years of fruitless contacts with the Curia of Verona and in order to prevent what happened to us from happening to other children. The Bishop of Verona, who had been aware of what was going on, immediately accused us of being slanderers.
On May 9, 2014, the eight Provolo victims of Italy sent Pope Francis a video message pleading for justice. They asked the Pope for safety measures to protect children.
After repeated pleas and requests to the Vatican, in February 2016, the Vatican informed the victims that the Pope had referred the matter to the Italian Bishops’ Conference, refusing their request for an independent investigation. For three years, Fr. Corradi remained at the school, after Pope Francis was informed that an active child predator priest was teaching deaf and mute children in Argentina.
In late November 2016, Argentine Police arrested the 82-year old Rev. Corradi, 55-year-old priest Horacio Corbacho, and three other men. They are accused of sexual and physical child abuse at the Antonio Provolo Institute in northwestern Mendoza province in Argentina. When the police raided the school in Argentina’s Mendoza province, they found pornography and about $34,000 in Fr. Corradi’s room.
Now at least 60 students of the Provolo Institute in Argentina have come forward seeking justice for the abuse they say they suffered at the hands of the accused men. Read about the school of horrors here.
3. Belgian Cardinal Danneels
In 2010, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels was caught on tape attempting to cover up years of abuse involving his close friend and fellow bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, then-Bishop of Bruges. The victim on the 2010 tape was Bishop Vangheluwe’s nephew. In a meeting, which was secretly recorded, Cardinal Danneels directed the abuse victim to remain silent about the abuse, while telling him to “ask for forgiveness” and “acknowledge your own guilt.” When the tape was leaked shortly after the meeting, Bishop Vangheluwe admitted to the sexual abuse of his nephew and stepped down from his post.
While Pope Francis has repeatedly assured Catholics that bishops who cover up abuse will be removed from office, Danneels was instead rewarded. In addition to having Cardinal Danneels accompany him on his initial presentation to Catholics on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis ignored the outcry as he made Danneels one of his personal appointments to both the first and second Synod on the Family.
4. Honduran Cardinal Maradiaga
Shortly after his election as Pope, Francis named Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga as the head of the C9, the newly created Papal Cabinet of Cardinals. As head of the C9, Maradiaga is sometimes dubbed the “vice pope.” Yet, there are questions about how seriously Maradiaga takes the sex abuse crisis.
He came under withering attack in 2002 for an interview he did with the Italian Catholic publication 30 Giorni. Maradiaga claimed that Jews influenced the Boston Globe to exploit the controversy regarding sexual abuse by Catholic priests in order to divert attention from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. The “fury” with which the press reported the scandal, Maradiaga said, “reminds me of the times of Diocletian and Nero and, more recently, Stalin and Hitler.”
“It certainly makes me think that in a moment in which all the attention of the mass media was focused on the Middle East, all the many injustices done against the Palestinian people, the print media and the TV in the United States became obsessed with sexual scandals that happened 40 years ago, 30 years ago.”
Cardinal Maradiaga also expressed his allegiance to priests over victims: ''For me it would be a tragedy to reduce the role of a pastor to that of a cop. We are totally different, and I'd be prepared to go to jail rather than harm one of my priests.''
5. Chilean Cardinal Errazuriz
After the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Chilean priest-predator Fr. Karadima guilty of sexual abuse of minors, Pope Francis appointed Karadima’s bishop, Chilean Cardinal Errázuriz, to his powerful Council of Cardinals (C9).
Cardinal Errazuriz first was informed of abuse by Fr. Karadima by a young male victim/parishioner who assumed an investigation would be opened. According to the New York Times, “The cardinal sent back a note, saying he was praying for Mr. Murillo, but failed to open a preliminary investigation. He chose not to do so, the cardinal said in an e-mailed response, because ‘unfortunately, I judged that the accusations were not credible at the time.’”
The Karadima appeals judge criticized Cardinal Errázuriz for not acting on the Karadima allegations for years, and protecting a sexual predator of children.
The Karadima abuse victims were enraged over Errázuriz’s appointment to the Council of Cardinals. “Why would Pope Francis, who's trying to clean up the church, pick a man like Errázuriz who has done so much harm to so many, by his actions?” asked victim Juan Carlos Cruz. “Errázuriz said he did not believe us, and minimized sex abuse cases.”
6. Chilean Bishop Barros
In March 2015, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Juan Barros to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Chile. The Fr. Karadima sex abuse victims and Osorno Catholics were furious over this papal selection because of Bishop Barros’ long association with Fr. Karadima. The priest-predator was in fact a longtime mentor to Barros.
Over 1,300 Catholics in Osorno, along with 30 diocesan priests, and 120 members of the Chilean Parliament sent a letter to Pope Francis urging him to rescind the appointment of Bishop Barros which was scheduled for March 21, 2015.
The bishops of Chile supported Barros against the accusers and the Vatican rejected the accusations. In May 2015, Pope Francis was filmed criticizing Chilean Catholics who protested Barros’ appointment. Francis called them “stupid” for believing the allegations against Barros.
The accusations were very severe including two former seminarians claiming that Barros was in the room when they were abused by Karadima.
Worldwide media coverage reported that thousands of Catholics, dressed in black, stormed the Cathedral of San Mateo during Barros’ installation ceremony.
A question of integrity
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), under Cardinal Ratzinger and now Cardinal Mueller, has won praise and recognition for its swift, thorough review and action on a large and complex caseload of predator priests. Despite the CDF’s reputation for justice for abuse victims and efficiency, Pope Francis recently fired three priests who were among the finest and most talented staff. Francis refused to give a reason for their termination. It is now reported that Francis is exploring transferring the responsibility of the investigation and trial of clergy abuse cases from the CDF to the Congregation for Clergy.
On December 28, 2016, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Francis sent a chastising letter to bishops around the world reaffirming the Church’s position of “zero tolerance” for abuse of children by clergy. In his pastoral letter, Francis warned the bishops to ensure children are protected from sexual abuse by clergy. Francis wrote that “the sufferings, the experiences and pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us… the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power.”
Dear Pope Francis, who is responsible for ignoring the pleas of victims of the sexual abuse by Fr. Nicola Corradi of deaf and mute children? Who restored priestly faculties and released back into the community a formerly laicized sexual predator, Fr. Inzoli? Who raised the stature of Cardinal Danneels caught on tape covering up abuse by appointing him to the Synods on the Family and having him on the balcony at the papal election?
Elizabeth Yore is an international child advocate attorney. She is the former General Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the former General Counsel at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She is an expert in human trafficking prevention and international child abuse investigations. She has investigated several clergy sex abuse cases.