ROMA - Il Papa, su proposta della Congregazione per la dottrina della fede, ha ridotto allo stato laicale don Lelio Cantini, il sacerdote di 85 anni ritenuto responsabile di abusi sessuali e psicologici negli anni 1973-1987 nella sua parrocchia fiorentina della Regina della Pace. Quattordici anni di abusi sessuali e ricatti e pressioni psicologiche che hanno trovato la forza di emergere solo nel 2004 quando le denunce delle stesse vittime hanno finalmente trovato ascolto.
The Florentine parish priest, now 85-years-old, has been held responsible for sexual abuses against his young parishioners in the years between 1973 and 1987.
The Rev. Cantini “defrocked” by order of Benedict XVI.
A first “sentence” in 2005 was considered too weak and ineffective. The faithful requested a supplementary investigation and the direct intervention of the Pontiff.
ROME – The Pope, after a proposal of the Congregation for the Doctrine and Faith, has reduced to the lay state the Rev. Lelio Cantini, the 85-year-old priest considered responsible for sexual and psychological abuses in the years 1973-1987 in his “Regina della Pace” Florentine parish. He was accused of 14 years of sexual abuse and blackmail and psychological pressure, which emerged only in 2004 when the denunciations of the same victims finally found attention.
“Multiple and aggravated abuses against minors, crime of solicitation to sexual intercourse committed against innumerable individuals during confession, abuses made during the exercise of the ecclesiastical authority for the formation of consciences”: That’s the conclusion of the supplementary investigation made public yesterday evening through a ‘Notificazione’ sent to the press by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Florence who on October 26th will cede the guide of the Curia to the new Archbishop Monsignor Giuseppe Betori.
The sentence puts an end to a vicissitude which has shocked the Florentine church and which exploded in April 2007 after some parishioners denounced their having been the victims of those abuses and provoked an investigation by the Florence Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation at the basis of the Pontiff’s decision is the second one the curia had made against the priest. “There emerged additional confirmations which added up new repercussions to the case,” according to Monsignor Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice at the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith, who spoke last September. He is the Holy See’s “Public Prosecutor” who valued the voluminous dossier containing the findings of the supplementary investigation imposed by Rome to the Florentine curia after insistences made by the victims and who was conducted by the Carmelite Father Francesco Romano.
In 2005, in fact, then Cardinal Antonelli had ended the investigation following a simple administrative canonical process, at the end of which, even if he acknowledged the Rev. Cantini was guilty of “criminal sexual abuses, false mysticism and domain of consciences”, condemned the old priest to a minimum penalty which was the prohibition to celebrate mass in public and the obligation to recite litanies to the Virgin Mary. A light penalty, which didn’t keep into consideration, for example, the perverse psychological mechanism the Rev. Cantini used to force his victims to commit those crimes. That was the most painful part of the story.
Faced by Cardinal Antonelli’s caution, the victims, who had already sent letters to the Holy See, again asked the Congregation for the Doctrine and Faith for an additional investigation. Using the maximum discretion Father Romano listened to their voices again and also for the first time the many people who knew what had happened in the parish of “Regina della Pace”. In the end, the voluminous dossier containing the findings of the investigation was delivered to the bishop. That brought to the decision of the Pontiff.
For that story the victims accused the auxiliary bishop Claudio Maniago (who was educated in that same parish “Regina della Pace”) of having undervalued the case. Since last December the Rev. Cantini has taken shelter for health reasons in the Florence’s ecclesiastical boarding school.
(October 12th, 2008)