Bergoglio Puts Father Grassi’s Foundation under Microscope

The Episcopal Conference’s communication will be read this weekend at churches in Buenos Aires; the bishops disapprove of obstruction of justice [regarding the effort] to relocate minors from the Foundation.

By Sergio Rubín
May 22, 2009

 [Translated into English by Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
See original article.

The priest, Julio Cesar Grassi, and members of his foundation, Happy Children, ended their tumultuous week with a major reversal from a crucial player: the Church itself. Yesterday, none other than the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, came out to implicitly question the resistance that Grassi and his collaborators put up against the law’s attempt to relocate the children and adolescents residing at the Saint Joseph Worker Home, in the Chacarita neighborhood, after severe irregularities were detected there.

A statement from the Bishops' Council of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, headed by Bergoglio, defends the actions taken by the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, Horacio Astoul Benites, who last September took legal action to confront "the seriousness of the events" occurring in that home.

While not specifying the exact nature of these episodes, Benites Astoul would have presumably reported the alleged attempt by a seminarian there to hang himself in the adjoining religious school, after being abused by another juvenile living at the home.

The Council clarified that the bishop did not make a formal complaint, but only issued a “communication,” just as "all individuals and institutions are required to do when such incidents occur with minors … so that legal authorities can act if necessary.” The Council added that the intervening Judge and children’s defense “consider it opportune to open an investigation to determine a number of irregularities, many of which are in the files kept at the home.”

In an apparent allusion to the angry reaction from members of the Foundation to attempts to relocate the children, the Council says: "The coverage of the events in the media took things to a level of confusion and manipulation, implicating persons and institutions that had acted in the best interest of the children: Monsignor Astoul Benites, school authorities, the district parish, and others."

The civil judge, Myriam Rustan de Estrada, had approved the transfer of minors on April 17, but the resistance of the household staff, "deliberately disobeying" the Federal Police, according to the judge, obstructed the relocation attempt, and resulted last Friday in violent incidents on the property.  Said incidents continued through Monday, when teachers at the adjoining religious school were assaulted on their way to class.

In statements to reporters, the Judge, who considers "very serious" the irregularities at the home, revealed that there are videos in which resident nuns, who were recruited from Guatemala by Grassi, “instructed the children what to do, to ‘run all over the place’ and thereby resist the legal decision to relocate them.”  At present, of the more than 40 students who had been living there, only 14 remain today.

On Monday, the Judge finally decided that to avoid further harm to the children, the Archbishop take over their custody until the relocation can be done properly. 

The Happy Children Foundation presented a habeas corpus to certify the health of the children and thereby delay their transfer. But the Criminal Court of Buenos Aires rejected the petition and supported the Judge’s decision.

It is reported that the statement of the Episcopal Council led by Bergoglio will be read this weekend at the all of the churches of the city of Buenos Aires during mass.


















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