Diocese had warnings about lay group accused of abuse for 40-plus years


Claire Giangravè

Apr 27, 2018

CATANIA, Italy – Documents obtained by Crux show that both the Diocese of Acireale on the Italian island of Sicily and the Vatican were aware since the mid-1970s that a powerful lay organization whose leaders today stand accused of sexual abuse of minor girls was suspected of “deviations of a doctrinal and moral character” and “true scandals.”

Those charged with abuse are currently awaiting trial, and have strongly denied the accusations through their attorney.

Despite several failed attempts in the late 1970s to impose discipline, documents and interviews show the group continued to enjoy loose approval from a string of bishops in Acireale until criminal charges were lodged by civil prosecutors in August 2017.

Among other things, those documents, 79 pages in all, show that the “Catholic Culture and Environment Association,” formerly known as the “Community of Lavina,” was supposed to be barred from meeting on church grounds since February 1976, but it was allowed to continue doing so openly until last year when the charges were filed.

The documents, mostly correspondence among bishops, clergy, members of the group and Vatican officials, do not indicate any specific knowledge by Church authorities of charges of sexual abuse within the group.

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