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Pope Francis defrocks Italian priest convicted of child sex abuse

Pope Francis elevates the host as he leads the Corpus Domini procession at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome on June 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis has defrocked an Italian priest who was found guilty of child sex abuse, three years after overturning predecessor Benedict XVI’s decision to do the same after allegations against the priest first came to light. 

Mauro Inzoli, 67, was initially defrocked in 2012 after he was first accused of abusing minors, but Francis reversed that decision in 2014, ordering the priest to stay away from children and retire to “a life of prayer and humble discretion.”

On Wednesday (June 28), the priest’s diocese of Crema in northern Italy released a statement saying the pope had made a “definitive ruling” that Inzoli, also known as Don Mauro, should be dismissed from clerical duties.

Bishop Daniele Gianotti of Crema said the Vatican body responsible for church doctrine informed him of the pope’s decision, which Gianotti described as “the worst punishment” to be imposed on a priest.

“We cannot assume that the pope made such a serious decision without carefully examining all the elements in front of God, before making a choice for the good of the church and Don Mauro,” said Gianotti on the diocese website.

Inzoli, who was also dubbed Don Mercedes because of his love of luxury cars, was found guilty last year by an Italian court of eight counts of sexual abuse of children aged 12 to 16. He reportedly paid $28,000 in compensation to five victims he molested between 2004 and 2008.

Gianotti said it had been “very painful” for him to communicate the pope’s decision to Inzoli and urged the faithful to pray for the priest’s victims.

Since Francis’ election in 2013, he has adopted a hard line on pedophilia in the Catholic Church and urged bishops around the world to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to clerical sex abuse. But victims’ groups have often argued he has not done enough to hold perpetrators to account or the bishops who tolerated their behavior.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI first moved to defrock Inzoli but Francis decided to give him another chance before making his latest definitive ruling for something the pope has described as “a sin that shames us.”

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

19 Comments

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  • How about bringing back burning at the stake. Child molestation is far worse of a crime than heresy. Sadly these perverts (or the church) buys their way out if trouble. Worldwide, over the last 30 years, how many of these guys have spent time in prison?

  • 1. “The worst punishment” is excommunication. Pope Francis excommunicated Fr. Greg Reynolds for supporting women’s ordination.
    2. Pope Francis appointed Cardinals Pell and Errazuriz even though both had made headlines for a decade by protecting pedophiles and persecuting the Church’s victims.
    4. Pope Francis first obstructed then ignored two UN committees on child sex abuse.
    5. Pope Francis left pedophile Abp. Wesolowski a free man for 14 months until there was a risk he would be extradited back to the Dominican Republic to face prosecution.
    6. Although personally informed about the horrid abuse of deaf children by Fr. Don Corradi in 2014, Pope Francis did nothing. Corradi was arrested in Dec. by Argentine police for continued sexual assaults.

  • No progress will be made unless and until the theology of the priesthood is reformed. As a victim myself at age 11, I can attest that when a child is taught that a priest is “alter Christus ” and stands “in persona Christi” to a child that means that the priest is God, AND YOU DON’T SAY NO TO GOD.

  • Reynolds wasn’t “automatically” excommunicated.
    Errazuriz is in good standing with the the RCC but not Chileans.
    UN Committees on the Rights of Children and the other on Torture were not politically motivated.

  • “Pope Francis excommunicates Australian priest” http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/09/27/pope-francis-excommunicates-australian-priest/
    The case has been reopened by the Chilean justice system and recently new details have come to light. In his televised declarations, Dr. James Hamilton called former archbishop of Santiago, Monsignor Errazuriz, a “criminal” for his participation in the concealment of Karadima’s crimes and for acting as part of a circle of protection composed of religious and civilian members (whom Hamilton identified with first and/or last name).http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/03_04/2011_04_22_Smirnow_InFocus.htm

  • The theology of the priesthood is at the heart of the abuse abomination. As I said I am a survivor myself and work as a Victim Advocate with many others, and the most essential, unique, and lasting effect of sexual abuse by a priest is that “ALTER CHRISTUS” did this to you.Only HE can forgive sins, only HE can confect the Eucharist and make Christ present on the altar, only HE stands “in persona Christi” and now HE has raped you. And what’s more, because of the theology of the priesthood, no matter what they say about revoking his faculties or even “defrocking” him, by the terms of his ordination he will always remain “ontologically” superior to any mere human and he is a priest FOREVER ” in the order of Melchizedeck.” Unless and until this teaching, which begins in 1st Grade, changes, innocent children will not reject priests’ advances and will continue to be soul-murdered by these men who should be behaving as and being thought of as ” servants of the servants of God.”

  • “before making a choice for the good of the church and Don Mauro.” That, in a nutshell, has been the Church’s problem throughout the entire child sexual abuse scandal. Protect the Church, empathize with the priests — but as to the children? Even in this article they’re an afterthought.

  • You’re absolutely right that the “Church is not going to alter its theology”, and therefore the sexual abuse by priests will go on.

  • Obviously you do not understand the nature of the abuse, so your conclusion that the abuse is in no way contingent on the theology is unsupported, and by the grace of God you and your loved ones will be spared such an understanding, which Christ seemed to understand when he said in Matthew 18, 6: “Woe to that one who would harm one of these, my little ones. It would be better for him to have a great millstone tied around his neck and be cast into the depths of the sea.”

  • Thanks for the good luck wish, but people don’t get over this. But that’s OK, it’s my problem and God has given me the grace to deal with it. My concern is to prevent it from being done to others, and as long as children are being taught that a priest, just by virtue of ordination, is an ontologically superior “other Christ” FOREVER, no matter what abominable things he does, there will be more victims, more cover-ups, and more murdered souls. ( Oh, and by the way, you are correct that I do NOT blame the perpetrators, who are sick, perverse deviants who act compulsively, and I DO blame the Church ( as in the hierarchy, who are cold blooded, calculating enablers, defenders, and concealers of these atrocities).

  • Evil is at the heart of the problem. But it is also a known, systemic, And catholic problem, one that has been documented for over 1000 years. The abuse AND the enabling AND the coverups AND the blind eye.

    It is this that makes it a CATHOLIC problem, and what makes it not a police officer problem, though it has certainly occurred there. As an example, about 35 or 45 years ago, the police chief a a local city, heterosexually married and heterosexual to all his community, resigned because he was abusing boys in the Scouts. No one called it a police problem, but it was definitely called a SCOUT problem, because the abuse was enabled, covered , and ignored by Scouting authorities.

    Well, except for the part about trying to blame it on gay men as a convennient, but wrongfully and with evil intent, diversion.

  • No, you chose to ignore my point. I can’t help you there. When you have a thousand years of known abuse, a thousand years of known cover ups, and people like you still defending the church for it, then it IS a Catholic problem.

  • The systematic cover ups by the Catholic Church of thousands of crimes, rapes, etc makes the Catholic Church and its institutions guilty and not a credible institution. Hence, there is plenty of ground to announce the theology developed and written by men representing the Catholic Church along the course of centuries is not credible. Money money money money, as the song goes.

  • I would agree that there are few credible religious institutions left. But do you have sources that show there are systematic cover ups by synagogues and Protestant churches? Jewish synagogues don’t have a hierarchy as Catholicism does going up all the way to the Vatican so no possibility of systematic cover ups going all the way up the ladder. Besides, clerical marriage is allowed in Protestantism, Judaism, Lutheranism, Islam, etc, so there is no flagrant problem of clerics witholding their natural sexual desires.

  • And you keep repeating the childish tu quoque fallacy (and without proof) which is not helping your point.

  • Plenty of reliable sources – just google it without cherry picking your preferred agenda.

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