VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Former members of a disbanded public association of the faithful in Tuscany, Italy are being investigated for sexual abuse, leaving some Catholics wondering why a different Verona religious institute — notorious for a scandal involving priests raping deaf children — remains open.
Nine former members of the defunct Disciples of the Annunciation (DA), five of whom are priests, are being investigated for the sexual abuse of two brothers.
Among those being investigated is DA's founder, Fr. Giglio Gilioli.
"I do not hide my pain and my lively worry and I hope that the charges made do not prove true," said Bp. Giovanni Nerbini, the local ordinary of the Prato diocese in Tuscany, where DA was based.
"I want to say clearly that the Church of Prato's first concern is the search for truth. For this reason, in everybody's interest, I hope the authorities can bring the investigations to a close as soon as possible," Nerbini added.
The Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life announced the disbanding of DA on Dec. 16, 2019, citing multiple reasons, none of which included sexual misconduct.
The principal reasons given were reductions in membership, "attitudes of distrust and detachment toward diocesan authority," and "strong doubts about the founder's style of government and his suitability for holding this role."
Now 73 years old, DA's founder Fr. Giglio Gilioli transferred to Prato more than 10 years ago from Verona — the very province where the notorious Antonio Provolo Institute for Deaf-Mutes is based.
The Vatican launched an investigation into the institute in 2010, confirming in 2012 that the abuse occurred. But with the exception of a few minor penalties for some of the perpetrators, the Vatican has allowed the institute to continue.
"They have a lot of explaining to do when they meet God face-to-face," said one Catholic, who preferred to remain anonymous.
Other Catholics told Church Militant it is difficult to understand why the Vatican closes a small religious association while allowing institutions such as the Provolo Institute to remain open.
Church Militant reached out to the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life to determine how it decides to suppress certain religious orders and societies while leaving others — involved in verified scandals — free to continue. As of press time, no response had been received.
Many in Italy and elsewhere are shocked the Provolo Institute in Verona remains open.
One online review of the institute quotes from Canto III of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, likening the facility to Hell:
Per me si va ne la città dolente, (Through me the way to the city of suffering,)
per me si va ne l'etterno dolore, (Through me the way to eternal pain,)
per me si va tra la perduta gente. (Through me the way among the lost.)
[ ... ]
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch' intrate. (Abandon all hope, you who enter here.)
Another online review says: "You can find beautiful testimonies on the [inter]net about what happened in this religious place. To clean it up they should knock it down and build a playground for children out of respect and shame for what happened."