Sex and Videos: Priest Is Accused of Corruption
He allegedly solicited “services” from a minor in a public plaza
August 29, 1998
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
Córdoba -- The residents of Berrotarán, a town located 150 kilometers south of the capital, are shocked. And no wonder: the local priest is suspected of practicing corruption of minors.
The suspicions haven’t led to charges. But there does exist video captured by a television camera in San Martín Plaza, Córdoba City, across from the Catholic Church, where Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta officiates at Mass.
As in any small town, the topic was an open secret. Yesterday, a 23-year-old revealed having received “overtures” from Father Walter Edward Avanzini. A young girl was even more categorical: “This is not news to anyone, although many find it hard to believe. Who would dare say that the Berrotarán priest was like that?”
The episode also caused a stir in the provincial capital, where it’s only now emerging that there are concerns about the presence of individuals seeking sexual pleasure who are paying children and adolescents for various kinds of erotic “services” in the Plaza and other sites.
The case came to light when the local television news program “A Decir Verdad” broadcasted images of night life in the Plaza. The images were taken by a camera that was installed and positioned to film a boy, who was brought in to act as bait. The camera also captured the comings and goings of other individuals, one of whom sat on a bench next to the boy and entered into negotiations with him.
The video was viewed by Berrotarán residents who recognized and identified the individual: the local priest.
In this community of 8,500 inhabitants, Avanzini is at the helm of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Church. He is also a physician and works at the Instituto Parroquial Berrotarán, where about one thousand male and female students are enrolled.
Authorities at the Institute emphatically rejected the notion that the priest demonstrated behavior that is sexuality injurious or damaging to the moral integrity of the students.
Yesterday, Avanzini took refuge at a “spiritual retreat,” according to the priest Miguel Astudillo.
The Bishop of Río Cuarto, Monsignor Artemio Staffolani, asserted that he only learned of the incident from the media. If the allegations are true, he said, he’d be “very embarrassed by what is happening. I’d have to ask the Berrotarán community and all those who’ve been hurt by this for forgiveness.”
The Violation of the Right to Privacy
Law specialists consulted by La Nación concerning the possible tension between the use of hidden cameras and the violation of the privacy of individuals, spared no criticism in regards to the case of the priest of Berrotarán. Alejandro Carrió, President of the Association for Civil Rights, pointed out that “since the constitutional right to privacy and intimacy is at stake, I’d only accept this technique of filming people without their consent when seeking proof of the existence of a crime and when there are justified suspicions prior to the filming.”
For his part, the lawyer, Gabriel Mazzinghi, Professor of Civil Law at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, also expressed objections to the action of the Cordoba television station. “Without knowing the details of the case, I think there was a sort of double violation of privacy. On the one hand, the right to privacy is protected by Article 1071 of the Civil Code, and, on the other, by intellectual property law 11,723, which protects the right to self-image,” he said. Regarding the possible consequences of the transmission of the footage, the lawyers consulted explained that if the case goes to court, “a judge could order the prohibition against further transmission and issue a fine against the station.”