Pope Francis and the Scandal

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FinnThere is widespread agreement that dealing with the abuse scandal needs to be a top priority for Pope Francis. And so far as I can tell, Pope Francis has never done or said anything about a particular case or the situation in general that has received public notice. Astonishingly enough, he seems to be a virtual tabula rasa when it comes to the biggest crisis to hit the Catholic Church since the Reformation.

The explanation may have to do with the fact that the scandal has touched Argentina very little. The only case of note occurred in 2002  when Archbishop Edgardo Storni of Santa Fe resigned after a book accused him of abusing at least 47 young seminarians. (The Vatican had investigated Storni in 1994 and found insufficient evidence to discipline him.) An Argentine writer who talked with then Archbishop Bergoglio about Storni’s situation at the time of his resignation recalls him saying, “The justice will take care of him.” The Argentine episcopate was then paying for the lawyers who represented Storni.

If Francis wants to make as much of a mark by his handling of the abuse scandal as he has by his simple lifestyle, he’s got a ready-made opportunity. Last September, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was convicted of a criminal misdemeanor for failing to report one of his priests for possible sexual abuse of children. Thus far, neither the Vatican nor the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has so much as issued a statement on the matter.

If Francis removes Finn from office, as he should, he will signal to the world that it’s a new day in the Church. This is an easy call to make. Let’s see if he can make it.

  • John M

    I believe that until all bishops who hid or abated priest sexual predators resign or die, we will not have a true starting point from which healing can begin to take place. If Pope Francis wants to be a true reformer, he will call for those bishops’ resignations ASAP.

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  • Mark Kraft

    I am researching this issue with Pope Francis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really hold true. There were more significant issues with sexual abuse in Argentina than the Western press knows about. The truth of the matter is that Western journalists haven’t really researched the matter in the Argentinian press, and have relied on incomplete Western news sites, which don’t really follow the story, and never meant to imply any kind of complete list in the first place.

    For starters, you mentioned the resignation of Archbishop Edgardo Storni, who was accused of molesting 47 young seminarists. Well, it turns out that one of his victims came forward, which led to a conviction and an eight year sentence in Dec. 2009.

    If you look at the BBC article in question, it actually mentions that “He is the fourth priest in Argentina to be convicted of sex crimes.”

    Frankly, there’s a lot more research into this matter to be done. I have looked into this a bit, and haven’t found who the other three are, as yet, but I did find one very troubling issue.

    An article from a major Argentinian paper, La Arena, mentions a Sebastián Quattromo, who, with another victim, was sexually molested by by Fernando Enrique Picciochi, a Catholic Catechist at the Marianist College.

    According to the article, Quattromo came forward about his molestation, only to have Picciochi flee the country to the United States. The incident led to the Catholic Church settling a lawsuit against them, paying Quattromo a fairly large settlement. However, it appears that one of the terms of the settlement was a non-disclosure agreement.

    The Church apparently argued that not revealing details of that settlement meant not pursuing a criminal case against Picciochi. Quattromo brought this issue up before the Marianist College and Bishop Poli, who presided over the northern Pampas region of Argentina, only to get stonewalled, apparently.

    Troublingly, though, the article also says, as best as I can determine:
    “I then went to the Archbishopric, and I met with a Secretary of Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who identified himself as Martín García Aguirre. I raised the issue of the case with him and the and the measure that sought to impose. . . silence on the victims.. . .But I got no response,”

    See http://www.microsofttranslator.com/bv.aspx?from=es&to=en&a=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.laarena.com.ar%2Fla_ciudad-obispo_poli__vinculado_a__red_de_silencio_-80276-115.html

    The case eventually pressed forward, despite the position of the Church which made pursuing the case harder. This led to a manhunt in the U.S.

    The U.S. finally deported the pedophile back to Argentina in 2010. He was convicted to twelve years in prison in late September last year.

    However, the Church effectively delayed the process of justice for quite awhile. The child abuser in question was living in California for years before he was tracked down and deported, and may have preyed upon additional victims for all we know.

    So no, there are, in fact, serious issues involving child sexual abuse that Archbishop Bergoglio may have potentially stonewalled a victim, either through intent, or simply through a failure of policies and procedures.

  • Thanks for the information, Mark. What you’ve found does not, however, change the picture of a country relatively untouched by the scandal, nor of an archbishop who has managed to avoid public notice with regard to it.

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