Justice Department Opens Criminal Investigation of Archbishop Storni
There are allegations of corruption of minors
By José Enrique Bordón
August 28, 2002
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
Santa Fe – The church of Santa Fe is facing the most complicated week of its existence. The local justice department, acting on its own initiative but also [in accordance with] legislative requirements, is investigating the alleged corruption of minors involving the city’s archbishop, Monsignor Edgardo Gabriel Storni.
What is more, parishioners participated in a march led by priests past the Courts of Justice – this, after a group of prelates (confidants of the archbishop) were denounced for threatening a parish priest, who in 1992 asked church leaders to reflect before Christ, citing “an indiscretion” committed during a pastoral retreat in Calamuchita, Córdoba.
Meanwhile, Storni left yesterday for Rome, where he will fulfill his visit “ad limina apostolorum” to the Vatican, taken annually by the bishops [to give an account of the state of their dioceses].
There is speculation in church news outlets about Storni’s continuity as head of the archdiocese, which he has presided over since 1984, following the death of Monsignor Vicente Zazpe.
The allegations -- investigated by Eduardo Giovanini, Examining Magistrate of the Fifth Court District -- were already the subject of an extensive documentation of antecedents [prior acts] carried out in 1994 at the behest of the Vatican by Monsignor José María Arancibia, Archbishop of Mendoza. The result [of these efforts] was never made known.
The allegations also appeared in journalist Olga Wornat’s recently published book “Our Holy Mother,” which includes denunciations of alleged acts of corruption that involve the archbishop.
Judicial sources explained to La Nación that the charges, namely “abuso deshonesto” against minors, are governed by Private Law. As such, they can only be investigated if the victim brings a formal accusation.
The court must now determine if the alleged crimes were done repeatedly (i.e. recurrent and continued over time). If that’s the case, the alleged abuse will be treated as an act of corruption -- a crime that can be investigated by the court in the realm of Public Law.
[Sources] also indicated that crimes against minors can be investigated via Public Law if the perpetrator had the duty to care for, or have guardianship of, the minors who he abused, molested, or raped.
The Demands of the Faithful
The ideological turmoil surrounding these themes flared up last Sunday evening, when about 100 parishioners entered the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe and expressed their disapproval of Hugo Capello, who leads religious services there, and who was appointed by Storni as vicar of the archdiocese during his absence.
Capello and Father Mario Grassi, vicar for religious education, together with three other priests, were denounced at the police station by Father José Guntern, 82, former parish priest of San Cayetano Church, for having coerced him into signing a document before a notary that retracted his public claim to being the author of the letter to Storni, in which he made reference to the situation that transpired in Córdoba.
Julio César Costa, Examining Magistrate of the Fifth Court District, took testimony from Guntern and notary Ricardo Chaminaud, who certified the document. Chaminaud has been charged with “falsedad ideológica,” a crime for which the priests who forced Guntern to recant [his authorship of the letter] could also be prosecuted.
The current situation concerning the priest and the church of Santa Fe has been the hot topic of recent weeks, especially now that Pope John Paul II has declared his policy of zero tolerance in the face of denunciations of sexual abuse by American priests.