La Croix International [France]
May 24, 2022
By Xavier Le Normand
All eyes are on Italy’s bishops this week to see if they will finally launch a full-scale investigation into pedocriminality within the Catholic Church in their country.
Members of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) gathered at a large hotel on the outskirts of Rome on Monday for a week-long plenary assembly as victims of clergy sex abuse and their supporters issued demands for an inquiry.
“We ask for the full collaboration of the Italian Church in an independent investigation, conducted by credible and objective professionals, that sheds light on the abuses committed by the clergy in Italy,” said an open letter issued by “Italy Church Too”, a group of associations created in February to give weight to these demands.
“We ask that the archives of dioceses, convents, monasteries, parishes, pastoral centers, and Catholic educational and scholastic institutions be opened and made available (and) that channels of effective collaboration be put in place with the institutions of the Italian state so that those guilty of crimes against minors are prosecuted,” the organization said.
A book resulting from the archives
The signatories of the letter say that, in addition to shedding light on the past, there must be reparation for the victims.
“We call for victims and their families to be heard, welcomed and compensated,” the group insisted.
It also urged the Italian bishops to “promote the elimination of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse, as is happening in other countries” and “to extend also to clergy and volunteers active in the Church the mandatory anti-pedophilia certificate, provided for by the Lanzarote Convention, adopted by the Council of Europe”.
In addition to the open letter from “Italy Church Too”, a new book is coming out in Italy this Thursday that will increase the pressure on the bishops.
Agnus Dei, Gli abusi sessuali del clero in Italia (“Lamb of God: clergy sex abuse in Italy”) was compiled from the archives of Rete L’abuso (the Abuse Network), a small association that compiles various data on cases of child abuse committed by priests and how bishops have handled them.
“A very disturbing picture emerges and the Church seems to be doing nothing,” says a blurb on the back cover.
In addition to the data used, the force of the book is bolstered by the credibility of its authors.
At the forefront is Lucetta Scaraffia, founder and editor until the end of 2021 of Donne Chiesa Mondo, the women’s supplement of L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.
Notably, it was under her leadership that the supplement published a remarkable article in January 2020 on various types of abuse committed against women religious.
The possibility of a non-independent investigation
Another co-author of the book is Franca Giansoldati, Vatican reporter for the popular Rome daily, Il Messaggero.
Pope Francis likes to tell people that it’s the one newspaper he reads each day, thus indirectly drawing particular interest in the writings of the journalist.
The third author is Anna Foa, a professor at the prestigious University of Rome “La Sapienza”.
“This is not a sensationalist book and it is not a book against the Church,” Giansoldati told La Croix.
“On the contrary, it must serve the Church by giving an impetus so that these acts do not happen again,” she insisted.
Giansoldati would like to see an independent study that includes a historical component, which is necessary to “better understand reality in order to confront this plague”.
But she is doubtful.”
I fear that the bishops will choose to make a non-independent investigation based on data from the last few years alone,” she said.
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a Sant’Egidio priest, is new head of the Italian bishops
Much will now depend on Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna. Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed the Rome-born priest the CEI’s new president.
Zuppi, who will be 67 in October, has been closely involved with the Sant’Egidio Community since his seminary days. He is believed to be in favor of an investigation into pedocriminality in the Church.
The pope chose Zuppi to be the conference president after the cardinal emerged as the top vote-getter among three main candidates.
The runner-up was Cardinal Augusto Paolo Lojudice of Siena, 58, who grew up in a rough neighborhood (or “borgata”) in the periphery of Rome.
Many will now be watching to see what Cardinal Zuppi and his confreres do on the abuse issue.