The Monitor | Abuse Case Is Opportunity for Pope | September 25, 2013
- An Argentine court finally sends to prison a priest convicted of child sex abuse in 2009 and defended by the Pope
- This is an opportunity for Pope Francis to be transparent and pastoral
- See our new summary, with translated articles and court documents, of then-Cardinal Bergoglio's involvement in this controversial case
A pedophile priest in Argentina who has stayed free since his criminal conviction four years ago in part because of covert lobbying of judges by the Argentine bishops' conference, headed by then-Cardinal Bergoglio, finally has started serving his 15-year sentence. This week, an Argentine criminal court ordered Father Julio César Grassi immediately to go to prison for molesting a 13-year-old boy in the late 1990s.
According to news reports, Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, led a private campaign to exonerate Grassi and discredit his victims after Grassi was convicted in June 2009. See our analysis of the Grassi case and dossier of articles and documents, which we made public this week.
Now, as leader of the Catholic church, Pope Francis has an opportunity to order a full account of child sexual abuse by clerics in Argentina, and the cover-up by Argentine bishops. Six months into his papacy, the Pope has addressed financial corruption but not the corrupt shielding of sex offenders by bishops. He has expressed solidarity with nearly every vulnerable population except for those who were sexually abused within the church.
We are especially troubled that the Pope lobbied for Grassi so recently – in 2009 and 2010, years after the worldwide cover-up scandal broke and bishops in the US and Europe began implementing reforms, and soon after Bergoglio was nearly elected Pope in 2005.
Pope Francis in his America interview was contrite about his management failings as provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina during the dirty war, though he doesn’t mention his Jesuit subordinates, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were arrested, tortured, and released, let alone Mónica María Candelaria Mignone and her friends, who were arrested with the priests, tortured, and murdered. (See also a Google translation into English of the Mignone page.) The Grassi decision is the moment for Pope Francis to use the discernment also discussed in the interview to bring transparency to his time as a high archdiocesan official, archbishop, and cardinal in Buenos Aires. We urge that he order the release of a complete list of all credibly accused clerics with whom he dealt, both as an archdiocesan official and a Jesuit provincial, and that he compel Argentine bishops and religious superiors to publish similar lists, as 26 US bishops and religious superiors have done.
Pope Francis is no longer cardinal archbishop in a great and deeply Catholic country. He is Pope to all Catholics and inheritor of the revelations and changes obtained by sexual abuse victims from Los Angeles to Dublin and Brussels to Sidney. He is overdue to embrace this legacy and extend it. We assume Pope Francis eventually will meet with clergy sex abuse victims, as Benedict XVI often did. We urge him to set up his first meeting with the victims of Grassi and other victims of Argentine abusers. And we trust that he will exercise his unique power immediately to remove Grassi ex officio from the priesthood. The compassion so evident in Pope Francis’s first half-year as Pope must be extended to the church’s own wounded – in the terms of Francis’s battlefield hospital metaphor – the child victims of “friendly fire.” They are grievously wounded, some of them near death, and they need and deserve Pope Francis’s care.
Anne and Terry
Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director, BishopAccountability.org
781-439-5208 US cell
Terence McKiernan, President, BishopAccountability.org
508-479-9304 US cell
Founded in 2003, BishopAccountability.org is based in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, and documents the crisis of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It offers an online collection of more than 100,000 pages of church records, legal documents, and media reports. Its hardcopy archive is approaching one million pages. The mission of the organization is to give the public convenient access to information pertaining to the abuse crisis in the U.S. and worldwide. An independent non-profit corporation, BishopAccountability.org is an archive and a data center. It is not a victims' advocacy group or a reform group.