Bergoglio Accused of Having Protected Father Grassi
March 20, 2013
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
An American Catholic organization said that the current Pope was slow to take action against the priests, Julio Grassi and Napoleon Sasso, who were accused and convicted of sex abuse. Bishop Accountability demanded that the Pope apologize for the alleged protection that the Church gave to those priests.
An American Catholic non-governmental group said Pope Francisco was slow to take action against two Argentine priests, Julio Grassi and Napoleon Sasso, who were accused and convicted of sex abuse. The group, Bishop Accountability, asked the Pope to apologize for the alleged protection that the Catholic Church in Argentina gave to those clergymen and requested public access to the files concerning both cases.
A lawyer for some of the victims said the now-Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had not met with those who were abused, nor did he offer them assistance, claiming that mid-level officials of the Catholic Church, who tried to cover up one of the cases, have retained their jobs.
The demands of Bishop Accountability, which documents cases of minors who were victims of abuse, refers to priests Julius César Grassi and Napoleon Sasso, both convicted of pedophilia by Argentina’s Court of Justice.
Grassi led the Happy Children Foundation, which is in charge of children's homes, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a first-instance verdict in June, 2009, by the Argentine Court of Justice for sexual abuse of a minor. The priest remains free pending an appeal resolution by Argentina’s Court of Appeals. The legal recourse was filed with the Court on Grassi’s behalf by the Catholic Church in Argentina, then headed by Bergoglio as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The Pope also oversaw Argentina's bishops’ conference when Napoleon Sasso was appointed to the soup kitchen of a chapel and when he later became a fugitive, taking refuge for a year on a Church property in the same diocese, said Ernesto Moreau, lawyer for the victims.
The soup kitchen appointment came after Sasso received psychotherapy at a location reserved for wayward priests, where he was sent after being accused of committing sex abuse in a remote province of Argentina.
After his stint at the soup kitchen, Sasso was sentenced in November, 2007, to 17 years in prison for having molested a group of 25 girls, ages 3 through 16 years old, who attended a center in Pilar, province of Buenos Aires, between 2002 and 2003. Since November, 2012, he is given the privilege of leaving prison once a month.
The co-director of Bishop Accountability, Anne Doyle, said that these cases show that Bergoglio delayed taking action in the Catholic Church’s global struggle to confront the sexual abuse committed by its priests, a scandal that erupted in 2002, when thousands of cases were made public in the U.S. and around the world. "The fact is that it happened five years ago, when other bishops in other countries had met with the victims and implemented strict laws for filing cases. This puts him behind some of his American colleagues, that is for certain,” said Doyle.
"The victims of these two priests are the same children of God he talked about in his homily today. They are the most vulnerable among the poor. We hope that Francisco makes this a priority, contacts the victims and rectifies the terrible indifference he showed them when he was archbishop,” she added.
Bishop Accountability submits that in order to send a message of "zero tolerance" against these sex abuse cases, Pope Francisco should have the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires: 1) Make public the records of these two cases; 2) Identify other accused priests who have pending, credible allegations; 3) Publicly support a legal avenue to report any suspected abuse to the authorities; 4) Admit that he was wrong to defend the convicted priests; 5) Apologize to the victims of Grassi and Sasso; 6) Arrange an immediate meeting with the victims.
Bergoglio, who became Cardinal of Argentina in 2001, has not been directly involved in the sex abuse scandals or cover-ups, but he failed to remove the guilty priests and refused to meet with the victims, said Moreau.
"Bergoglio is the most powerful man in the Argentine Church since the beginning of the century," said Moreau. "The all-mighty Church did nothing to appropriately punish these individuals, and they did nothing to ease the pain of the victims."
According to Moreau and Bishop Accountability, Bergoglio met with Grassi and managed to keep the priest out of jail after he was sentenced to serve time. In a newspaper interview before the trial that issued a first-instance guilty verdict, Grassi said that the archbishop of Buenos Aires [Bergoglio] "never let go of his hand."
But the Argentine Committee for Oversight and Implementation of International Conventions for Children’s Rights, who acted as a prosecutor in the Grassi trial, made clear that a hearing was not requested for Bergoglio to meet with the abused victims of Grassi.
The Committee, which represented the minors, also pointed out that the now-Pope personally intervened to relocate the children at the center that depended on the foundation headed by Grassi and that was closed for lack of funds.
Nevertheless, the Committee hopes that in his new role as Pope, Bergoglio takes concrete action against the pedophile priests.
When Grassi’s sentence was issued, the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, led by then-Cardinal Bergoglio, did not offer an opinion. The Church informed the court of the results of an internal investigation of Grassi in 2009, reiterating irregularities in the St. Joseph Worker Home in Buenos Aires.
That investigation ultimately led to the evacuation of the children from the care of the Happy Children Foundation, operated by Grassi. At that time, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, presided over by Bergoglio, said that those who carried out the internal inquiry "acted properly." Among them was Bishop Horatio Benites Astoul.