An investigation into the highest ranks of the Vatican, including Pope Francis, led by The Washington Post revealed that they did little to punish the accused in the horrific abuse allegations in three Catholic schools for deaf children, nor did they stop the abuse from continuing.
According to the Post, an 83-year-old Italian priest named Nicola Corradi, believed to be the “ringleader” of the abuse, was arrested in 2016 after the allegations surfaced. While charges are pending against 12 other suspects, the 14th accused has already been charged with rape and sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years behind bars, Slate reports.
The probe indicated that the abuse at Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verona, Italy, reportedly began in the 1950s and lasted through the 1980s, while in Argentina, it began in the 1980s at two Provolo schools in Lujan and La Plata. Corradi had taught in both countries for decades, it was revealed.
While the allegations involved innumerable cases of abuse of children at least as young as 7, the church failed to punish the accused priests. In 2006, more than a dozen former students of the school were inspired to come forward after a man named Dario Laiti brought forth related allegations. In 2008, the victims wrote to a local bishop as it was too late to press charges, publicly naming 24 priests and other faculties at the school as abusers. That said, there were dozens of other victims who were not willing to come forward, the group claimed.
In an unsettling response, the bishop accused the victims of lying, thereby forcing the group to sue for defamation and alert the Vatican about said accusations. The Vatican then asked the diocese to launch a probe into the allegations back in 2010, prompting the latter to assign a retired judge named Mario Sannite to lead the investigation. While most of the allegations were deemed credible, Sannite doubted the former student who accused Corradi.
It was clear that these allegations were known to the highest ranks of the Vatican, the Post claimed. Pope Francis, who was appointed to lead the church in 2013, received a letter from the victims with a list of 14 alleged abusers the following year. After receiving no response, a group of victims and advocates traveled to Rome in 2015 hoping to meet the Pope. He was personally handed a letter with the abusers' names written by two of the victims, one of whom claimed to have been raped hundreds of times by a priest in the late 1990s. In response, one of the Pope's close associates in the Vatican penned a letter to the group, saying he “welcomed with lively participation what you wanted to confide in Him” but also reminded the group “of what the Holy See has done and keeps on doing with unwavering commitment on clerical sexual abuses.”
However, the local bishop came to believe in the following years that the group of victims was after the Provolo schools' property. Later, he doubled down on his claims and speculated the same group was behind the Argentina allegations as well. A subsequent Vatican investigation led to the punishment of only one priest, who was ordered to a life of penance and prayer.
While similar allegations later surfaced at two schools in Argentina, they did lead to criminal prosecutions. In 2016, a woman who had attended the school in Lujan presented her allegations to a state senator. Prosecutors raided the school two days later and discovered pornography and incriminating evidence against a 58-year-old Argentine priest. The school was shut down and authorities launched a separate probe into the La Plata school, where it was found that at least five men working there, including Corradi, faced allegations of sexual abuse. According to prosecutors, Corradi helped other predators at the school exploit the children. He is still under house arrest and is yet to enter into a plea agreement.
After the scandal, Pope Francis appointed a bishop named Alberto Germán Bochatey to oversee the Provolo schools, who later said the lawyers representing the victims grossly overstated the allegations. “They try to build a big case that [it was a] house of horrors, 40 or 50 cases, but there are little more than 10,” he told the Post, adding that he believed the Freemasons had orchestrated the accusations.
Pope Francis is expected to convene a summit of notable bishops from around the country on Thursday in a bid to discuss the ongoing sex abuse crisis.