Convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 14 years in prison for sexually abusing four boys, ages 11 to 14, from 2001 to 2005. First accused in 2005. The abuse occurred in San Juan Diego Home, a home for destitute children run by Mercau in the diocese of San Isidro, in the town of General Pacheco, district of Tigre, Buenos Aires province. He lived there with more than 20 boys who had been abused or neglected, or who grew up in poor families. He gave some of his victims shoes in exchange for sex. Mercau also was pastor at the nearby San Juan Bautista parish in Tigre. After his 2005 arrest, he was removed from San Juan Diego Home but allowed to live in a Benedictine monastery, where he was reportedly visited by boys and enjoyed internet access. The parents of his victims attacked him in 2007 as he left the public prosecutor's office. In November 2012, a San Isidro court rejected his petition for temporary release, ruling that his risk of recidivism was high.
In October 2013, he met with a psychologist to seek temporary release. In that meeting, he admitted he had participated in a workshop led by Peter Malenchini, a sculpture teacher who previously had been accused of sexually abusing nine students at his school. This second petition for release was again denied, a decision based in part on the “persistence” of his “psychopathology.”
In December 2013, San Isidro bishop Óscar Ojea issued a public statement, pleading for forgiveness of Mercau’s crimes and expressing the diocese’s willingness to pay compensatory damages to Mercau’s victims. Although the amount wasn’t specified, a spokesman for the bishop said a settlement had been reached and the diocese would sell some of its property to fund it. The payment and apology were described by many Argentine news outlets as voluntary acts of compassion by the diocese, but according to a Página/12 article, they were stipulated in an agreement the diocese made with Mercau’s victims to prevent a civil suit against the church.
In March 2014, Mercau was released from prison. On 11/5/2014, the bishop of San Isidro announced Mercau's laicization.
• La parroquia que tiene su segunda denuncia por abuso, by Carlos Rodríguez, Página/12, 7.22.2007
• Un cura acusado de cinco abusos sexuales fue a declarar y hubo incidentes en la fiscalía de Tigre, Clarin, 9.18.2007
• Agredieron a un sacerdote acusado de abusar de cinco adolescentes, El Dia, 9.19.2007
• Detienen en convento al cura José Mercau, La Arena, 8.22.2008
• Priest Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Abusing Four Boys, Clarín, 9.16.2011 [Translation] en Español
• Rechazan liberar a un cura, by Gustavo Carabajal, La Nacion, 11.24.2012
• Vínculos entre un cura condenado y un profesor acusado de abusos, by Gustavo Carabajal, La Nacion, 10.04.2013
• Inédito pedido de perdón de la Iglesia por caso de cura abusador, Info News, 12.13.2013
• Obispado argentino venderá propiedades para pagar a jóvenes abusados por sacerdote, El Dia, 12.13.2013
• Argentine diocese apologizes for pedophile priest, Agence France-Presse, 12.13.2013
• The Abusers, by Horacio Verbitsky, Página/12, 12.22.2013 [Translation] en Español
• Excarcelan al cura Mercau condenado por abusar de al menos cinco niños, Telam, 03.26.14
• El papa Francisco sancionó a un sacerdote de San Isidro, AICA, 11.05.2014