Priest Scandal | Made a Television Appearance this Morning to Declare His Innocence
Father Grassi Ordered Detained for Abuse of Minors
It’s due to a case from two years ago, although so far nothing has been proven. New testimony, broadcasted by Telenoche Investiga, resurfaced the case. Last night, Grassi said he’d turn himself in, but still remains a fugitive.
October 24, 2002
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
Yesterday, the Court gave the order to detain the priest Julio Cesar Grassi, president of Happy Children Foundation, for a very serious allegation: indecent assault and corruption of minors. The police conducted a search but did not locate him. In the early hours of the day, Grassi made a television appearance on a Channel 9 program and said he’d hand himself over to authorities. But at the close of this edition he still had not been detained and remained at large.
The priest's appearance in front of the television cameras and his affirmation that he would surrender to justice, followed by his abrupt departure of the television studio, left the impression that he’d been detained. But Clarín made calls to the Buenos Aires federal police branches and confirmed that the priest remained at large, since no one could account for his detention.
The case (now barely a month after the end of the trial that investigated whether the priest had been scammed by Hard Communication in an unrelated case) received support from testimonies collected by Telenoche Investiga.
Grassi is 46 years old, a priest since 1987, and, since 1993, the face of a foundation that cares for 6,300 children in 17 homes across the country. At its central location in Hurlingham live 400 children; 1,100 more get assistance. Yesterday, the police unsuccessfully searched for Grassi in Hurlingham.
The charges against him had been filed in November, 2000, beginning with an anonymous tip.
The record was "asleep" until this week, when Telenoche Investiga obtained the testimony of a young man who said that when he was 15 years old Grassi had abused him. The alleged victim also testified to the prosecutor, Adrian Flores, who got Judge Humberto Meade to sign the arrest warrant. The exact charges are two counts of abuse, compounded by Grassi’s stature as a religious figure and guardian of the victim, and for corruption of minors.
On the program that aired last night on Channel 13 -- where it was alleged that Grassi had also abused four other minors -- the young man, whose face was blurred to hide his identity, said that Grassi had abused him in 1998.
He said that one afternoon the priest took him to his office at the Foundation and asked him to sit on his lap. "I sat down. He touched my leg and inched his fingers up, and I immediately got away. He told me not to tell anyone, that what had happened was normal, that men had to get to know each other, that because I had no father he wanted to show me how life was.”
The boy added that there was a second episode, more serious than the first. "He touched my penis and said: ‘Do you want me to suck on you?’ I shook my head but he did it for a long time. That night I ran away," He stated that these episodes left him psychologically scarred.
The program also presented evidence of alleged abuse of other children. The first case would have occurred in 1997 [sic] [should read 1987] , when Grassi was rector of the Ramos Mejeía Seminary, where he’d have had intimate relations with a 17-year-old student, according to witnesses.
According to Telenoche Investiga, this incident would have forced him to leave the seminary. In 1991, the priest began working at the seminary La Casita, in Paso del Rey, with the priest Elvio Metone.
The research evidence suggests that, in Paso del Rey, Grassi would have forged another special relationship with a boy named Ignacio. "We believed they were having sexual relations, which a few boys claimed to have seen,” related on the program another adolescent who was living at La Casita at the time.
Father Metone revealed to reporters that, when the Happy Children Foundation opened in 1993, Grassi took Ignacio with him. Other testimony indicated that inside the Foundation Grassi had built a sliding door between his room and the young boy’s room.
Telenoche Investiga said that once Ignacio turned 18, Grassi met a new student, 11-years-old, named Fernando. Another student witness said that "Grassi took Fernando to his bedroom and lived with him there."
Soon after, in the Juvenile Court of Morón, an anonymous complaint was brought against Grassi for alleged corruption of minors. That was on November 29, 2000. From that point forward, the dossier on Grassi begin to take shape and ultimately led to yesterday’s call for his arrest.
Judge Meade, who took the case from the beginning, said that the Foundation was searched. "We discovered in Grassi’s bedroom a little doorway a spectacular room with sound system, television, large bed, and a designated exercise area, all of which looked like a nuptial suite,” said the judge. There, he added, slept Fernando.
"I warned him that he had to make things right, that he had to be careful with their sexuality," said Meade. According to Telenoche Investiga, in the dossier is a psychological assessment of Fernando that determined that the boy "had a secret homosexual relationship (presumably with Grassi) from a very early age." This assessment was not however added to the formal case.
It was also revealed that at the end of the year 2000 a new student arrived at the Foundation, a 15-year-old boy, Luciano, who "became the chosen one" and would have had sexual relations with Grassi.
In the program Grassi was asked about these allegations and denied everything. Further, he suggested that someone might be trying to get back at him, though he didn’t specify who.