Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope, accused of hindering justice in Argentine abusive priest case
MORE than a decade after his arrest and subsequent conviction for sexually abusing a young boy, the Catholic bishopric of Morón in western Buenos Aires has finally got round to banning Father Julio Cesar Grassi from priestly duties.
In 2000, an anonymous complaint filed in the Juvenile Court of Morón accused Grassi of corrupting minors. The case lay dormant until 2002, when Telenoche Investiga, an investigative news show on Argentina’s Channel 13, aired a programme alleging Grassi’s sexual abuse of five boys, ages 11 to 17. It included an interview with a young man, his face obscured, who said that Grassi performed oral sex on him in 1998, when he was 15. Within days, Grassi was arrested and charged with 17 counts of abuse of three boys, who were 9, 13, and 17 when the alleged incidents occurred. Grassi denied all the allegations.
Although he was found guilty on just two counts of aggravated sexual assault in the case of one youngster, and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Grassi was allowed to remain free and continue acting as a priest pending an appeal.
The court’s decision to allow him to remain free was condemned at the time by 49 priests and 50 laypeople who issued a statement slamming the court and criticising:
The silence of ecclesial leaders before this case and others.
The signatories said:
We see that other bishops’ conferences like Colombia’s have spoken up in similar cases, and we do not understand your silence, that has the appearance of ‘hushing up’ and ‘tolerance’.
Last month the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires province rejected Grassi’s appeal and ratified his 15-year sentence – and on September 23, 2013, the Morón Criminal Court No 1 ordered that Grassi immediately go to prison to begin serving his sentence.
Now here’s the rub. According to this detailed report of the Grassi case, the fingerprints of a certain Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Frankie) are all over the astonishing delay of justice in this case.
After Grassi was found guilty in June 2009, Bergoglio secretly authorised an extensive critical examination of Grassi’s prosecution and of the three original plaintiffs. In his capacity as President of the Argentine Bishops’ conference, Bergoglio approved the hiring of a leading criminal defence lawyer and legal scholar, Marcelo Sancinetti, to do the private investigation.
The resulting three-volume study vigorously asserted Grassi’s innocence. It was reportedly circulated to judges who had yet to make determinations in the case.
The bishops’ commissioned exoneration of Grassi was revealed in December 2011 by Juan Pablo Gallego, an attorney for the Committee for Oversight and Implementation of International Conventions for Children’s Rights, who had represented the plaintiffs at the trial.
Gallego called the study:
A scandalous instance of lobbying and exerting pressure on the court.
And he accused the bishops of:
Further hindering a process that has outrageously granted the condemned priest a situation of almost unthinkable freedom.
Although Grassi’s jailing took place last month, it came to our attention via a report about a Polish victim of clerical sex abuse, identified only as Marcin K, who has been denied compensation by the Church. The victim then wrote to Pope Francis, saying:
This letter is a cry for all children who have been wronged in Poland. Your Holiness, the events of my childhood destroyed my ability to find pure love and trust. The fear of intimacy and lack of confidence in people mean that I cannot enter into a healthy relationship with another person.
Marcin K’s abuser was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 2012, but after claiming he was suffering health problems, he was released and did not serve any of his sentence.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn