Pope’s record on abuse in Argentina is posted online
Group says four victims sought his help but did not receive it
Questions about Pope's actions in five abuse cases
New resource includes database of 42 accused Argentine clerics
Argentine bishops are among the “least transparent” in the church, group says
Hundreds of cases in Pope's native country are not public, researchers estimate
One week after Pope Francis called the church the only public institution that has been ‘transparent and responsible’ about child sexual abuse, a US-based international research group is posting the first comprehensive analysis of the pope’s track record on abuse during his 15 years as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The new analysis raises sobering questions about the pope’s forthrightness and commitment to child protection. It reveals that then-Cardinal Bergoglio, Argentina’s most powerful Catholic leader, chose not to meet with victims, sided with a convicted child molester, and released no information about sex abuse cases in the Buenos Aires archdiocese. He even said that he had never dealt with an abusive priest.
The information was posted today on BishopAccountability.org, a large online archive of documents and data pertaining to the global abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The new feature includes the first public database of accused Argentine clerics, providing detailed summaries and hundreds of source about cases against 42 priests and brothers.
The new resource is provided in both English and Spanish.
Since it was founded in 2003, BishopAccountability.org, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, has maintained a large, authoritative database of publicly accused US priests – now with nearly 4,000 names. With its new Argentina feature, BishopAccountability.org is launching a global database effort, as the popularity of the first non-European Pope increases awareness of the church's role in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
“We hope our new resource will encourage balanced scrutiny of how Pope Francis supervised abusers and responded to victims in Argentina,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org.
The new analysis highlights five abuse cases which raise questions about the pope's transparency and compassion for victims.
“In the astonishing first year of his pontificate, he repeatedly attacked church officials’ corrupt handling of finances. But he basically ignored their mismanagement of offending priests. And in his remarks about abuse on March 6, he complained that the church was being unfairly attacked. Does Francis have the will to resolve this catastrophic problem? Studying his record as archbishop will help us better understand his underlying approach,” Doyle said.
Buenos Aires archbishop from 1998 to 2013 and president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference from 2005 to 2011, years when bishops in Europe and North America were issuing apologies, meeting with victims, and disclosing numbers and names of abusive clergy, Cardinal Bergoglio appears to have expressed no public support for victims and, according to his spokesperson at the time, did not meet with them. Yet this was the period when Pope John Paul II ordered all bishops, including Cardinal Bergoglio, to send all abuse cases to the Vatican, and when Pope Benedict met with many victims, beginning with his visit to the U.S. in 2008.
Victims of four known offenders – Fathers Julio César Grassi, Rubén Pardo, and Mario Napoleon Sasso and Brother Fernando Enrique Picciochi, S.M. – say that they sought the cardinal's help. None of them received it. Some of them were poor, struggling on the “periphery” – the people whom Pope Francis has championed. Those whose pleas were unanswered by Bergoglio include:
• A boy who lived in a home for street children founded by Father Grassi, who sexually assaulted him and other boys who depended on the priest for shelter
• The parents of young girls who were molested in a soup kitchen run by Father Sasso, who was returned to ministry after being diagnosed as a pedophile;
• A young man desperate to be released from a church-imposed gag order so that he could bring to justice his abuser, Brother Fernando Picciochi, who had fled to the United States
• A mother seeking to ensure that no other children would be sexually assaulted by Father Pardo, the priest who had sexually abused her 15-year-old son and then vanished after the mother reported him to his bishop. (Pardo later was found living and working in Bergoglio’s archdiocese.)
Argentina bishops continue Bergoglio’s strategy of minimization today
Argentina’s bishops are among the least transparent in the worldwide church, according to BishopAccountability.org. They have released no documents, no names of accused priests, not even tallies of accused. As of March 11, 2014, the Argentine bishops' conference still had not published the abuse-response policy that it was supposed to finalize and submit to the Vatican by May 2012. Such policies have been posted by bishops' conferences in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, as well as those in the US, Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.
The 42 accused priests and brothers profiled by BishopAccountability.org are a fraction of the actual number of accused Argentine clerics, the researchers say. With the tenth largest Catholic population in the world, Argentina appears to have fewer than half the accused priests of the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. It has one twentieth the number of accused clerics in the Netherlands, a far smaller country, where an inquiry commissioned by the bishops’ conference counted 800 accused clerics.
The cultural and political power of the Catholic Church in Argentina, combined with the country's restrictive reporting laws and statutes of limitations, has prevented most victims from coming forward. The public record that has emerged is a result of the tremendous courage of Argentine survivors who have been able to file criminal and civil cases, according to Terence McKiernan, president and founder of BishopAccountability.org. “We hope that this new database helps more victims come forward and report their abuse to law enforcement,” he said.
Founded in 2003 and based near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, BishopAccountability.org is a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. In 2013, its website was visited by 1.3 million unique visitors. An independent non-profit, it is not a victims' advocacy group and is not affiliated with any church, reform, or victims' organization.
Contact Information for BishopAccountability.org
Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director, BishopAccountability.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-439-5208 cell
Terence McKiernan, President and Co-Director, BishopAccountability.org, email@example.com, 508-479-9304
(en Español) Ben Barrett, 732-829-4786, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact information for survivors in Argentina
Sebastián Cuattromo, survivor of child sex abuse by Brother Fernando Enrique Picciochi. Tried to get Bergoglio to waive a gag order imposed by a religious order. Met with Bergoglio's aides but received no help. See Sebastian’s story.
Mobile phone: 54 (code of Argentina) 011 (code of the city of Buenos Aires) 1569729541
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Gabriel Ferrini and Beatriz Varela – Gabriel Ferrini was sexually assaulted in 2002 by Father Rubén Pardo. Gabriel and his mother, Beatriz Varela, are the first plaintiffs to win a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Church in Argentina. Beatriz discovered that her son's abuser was living in a vicarage in the Buenos Aires archdiocese, while Bergoglio was archbishop. Here is their story.
Their email addresses:
Phone for Gabriel (and Beatriz): 541142568743