Third Cleric Convicted in Gay Priest Network in Brindisi, Italy

News: Crisis in the Church
by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 18, 2016   

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By Juliana Freitag

Read Part I and Part II of this series.

Earlier in May a third cleric from Brindisi was sentenced to four years of incarceration: Fr. Francesco Legrottaglie, 67, was convicted for possession of child pornography. The sentence also included a 1,600-euro fine, a five-year ban from public office, and a perpetual ban from schools and any other institutions attended by minors.
In November 2015, Legrottaglie was arrested "in flagrante" during a police visit to his house, where they found thousands of files named after Catholic saints containing images and videos of explicit child-related sexual material. The prosecution claims the priest often looked for online interaction with the youngsters and secretly recorded the video chats.

The route that led the magistracy to Legrottaglie has been kept secret, but it's likely linked to all of the other recent scandals in the Brindisi archdiocese, owing to the fact that all cases have been conducted by state's attorney Milton Stefano di Nozza, who ordered Legrottaglie's arrest.

This isn't the first time the priest has been taken in by the authorities. In 1991, when he was the priest of a parish in Ostuni, the parents of two little girls pressed charges against him, and in 1992 he was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for "violent libidinous act". At the time of the condemnation he had already been transferred to a military parish in the city of Bari. After the conviction Legrottaglie was sent to mission in Congo, and when the priest returned in 2010, the Curia of Brindisi-Ostuni, under the discerning guidance of Archbishop RoccoTalucci, nominated him a chaplain at Brindisi's hospital. He later returned to his hometown Ostuni, where he was allowed to be an assistant in a local parish, which is where he was last arrested.
In mid-2015, a group of Brindisi Catholics named "Manifest October 4" wrote an open letter to the Roman Curia asking for the establishment of an inquest commission:
It's not about punishment and repression, but about beginning a profound change in the way priests are selected and formed; on the whole they are too distant and separated from the community's everyday life. And it's also about a free and thorough examination of everyone's lifestyle.
The group is particularly noted for its progressive views, having questioned clerical celibacy and suggested female participation in the clergy.
On the Legrottaglie case, they also questioned current archbishop of Brindisi-Ostuni Domenico Caliandro on why the priest continued in his ministry even after his 1992 conviction. "For a lot less," the letter asserted, "men and women whose ways of love are excluded from the Canon are forbidden to access the sacraments."
A few months later, Abp. Caliandro addressed these issues in an interview, making a dig at Manifest October 4.
When someone is under investigation, the Church limits their faculties, but the right to celebrate Mass privately without the faithful is maintained. When the criminal procedures advance, the priest is then suspended a divinis while waiting for the conclusion of the process. In case the priest is guilty of the charges, the intervention must come from the Pope to reduce him to the status of a laicized priest. There are a few people among the laity who believe they are holier than everyone else. The Churchmen are humble people who understand the need to guarantee the dignity of everyone, especially the dignity of children, who shouldn't endure scandals nor suffer wounds that might affect their development.
The lay group took it personally, expressing its disappointment with the archbishop. "This has been a bitter surprise," Manifest October 4 remarked, "as we were only showing our concern for this serious problem, and we did so in spirit of cooperation. ... He responded with a refusal for any possibility of dialogue and a disrespectful and uncalled-for accusation."
As of yet, the archdiocese of Brindisi-Ostuni has released no statement with regard to the establishment of a commission to investigate its clergy.
Juliana Freitag is ChurchMilitant.com's Italian correspondent.

 

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