Another Sexual Threat underneath the Covers
Boys’ complaints led to detention of priest
Production: Paula Bistagnino
September 4, 2003
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
In the early months of 2003, the boys living at the Salesians of Don Bosco Institute, in Bernal, whose Director was Father Luis Pezzolo, began to be summoned by Juvenile Court No. 2 in Quilmes. “They all reported the same thing: Father Pezzolo fondled them and gave them money to leave him alone with one of them,” a source connected to the case told Página 12.
The priest, 69 years old, was arrested Tuesday night, accused of sexual assault and corruption of minors. Yesterday, after refusing to testify before the judge, he was detained at the Quilmes Crime Center.
As the boys prepared to make their court appearance, Pezzolo announced his resignation from the Institute, where he had been for over thirteen years. Soon after his resignation, he became director of a school and parish in Ensenada, and was later transferred to Office of Inspections of the Salesians of Don Bosco, in La Plata. By February, the evidence collected against him was more than ample.
The case was initiated by a complaint from a boy who left the Institute, not himself a victim but presumably a witness to the abuse. According to his account, the victim had been his schoolmate.
Following the initial complaint, “the rest of the boys told the same story: they said that whenever he could, Pezzolo tried to touch them, almost like a game, to see how they reacted and, based on that, whether to continue with his advances,” the source told Página 12, adding that the above mentioned victim “was not only fondled, but in the two years prior, from the age of 11 to 13, had allegedly been sexually abused.”
Until the initial complaint, none of the boys had discussed with anyone what was happening inside the home, including employees of the Institution, with whom they spent much time, and their parents, who some of them saw on the weekend. “Pezzolo offered the other boys money in order that he could be alone with his victim, who complied with his sexual demand,” said the source.
Once the ample evidence was compiled, the boys’ legal advisor, María Cristian Daroqui, presented the criminal complaint to prosecutor Luis Armella, who requested that the supervisory judge, Martín Nolfi, execute an arrest warrant for Pezzolo. The judge did so two nights ago and the priest was arrested at the Office of Inspections in La Plata.
After the arrest, the Office of Inspections issued a statement anticipating that defense lawyers would request an “alternative to prison time (i.e. house arrest) for reasons of health and age.” According to the statement, the Salesians of Don Bosco Institute – the congregation that at one time counted among its members Julio Grassi -- was unaware of the conduct attributed to Pezzolo, and “the priest’s relocation and change in job description are entirely unrelated to the accusation, given that Don Bosco officials were notified of the complaint on July 3, at which time Pezzolo was sent to our headquarters in La Plata to make himself available to authorities.”
Until February of this year, Pezzolo was in charge of the shelter and Catholic school, Nuestra Señora de la Guardia, owned by the Salesians of Don Bosco. Upon leaving, he was replaced by Father Cayetano Castelo, who, in 1955, had been a student in the seminary with Pezzolo. “He’s very dear to the community. I have no opinion on the matter because all human beings are capable of the most exalted things but also of the most degenerate,” Castelo told Página 12 regarding the arrest of his former classmate.
Pezzolo faces charges of sexual assault and corruption of minors “compounded by the fact that the victim was under his tutelage,” explained Commissioner Ángel Becerra, head of the Quilmes Crime Center, where the priest is being detained.