MENDOZA, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a case known to Pope Francis since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, priests who worked at a former institute for deaf and hearing-impaired children are being tried in Argentina for the sexual abuse of impaired children.
The first trial in a series of trials that will involve both priests, nuns and staff began Monday for the sexual abuse of former students at the Antonio Próvolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Mendoza, Argentina.
Father Nicola Corradi, Fr. Horacio Corbacho and Armando Gómez have been accused of sexually abusing deaf and hearing-impaired children from 2004 to 2016. Corradi pleaded not guilty, while Corbacho and Gómez have yet to enter their pleas.
Former directors, employees and two nuns will also be tried for allegedly participating in the abuse or having knowledge of it without taking action.
Depending on the individual offenses, the defendants face up to 20–50 years.
Monday's trial lasted about two hours. The charges included the corruption of minors, sexual touching and rape.
Pope Francis' Inaction
One victim insisted that, before becoming pope, Cdl. Jorge Bergoglio, then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, definitely knew about the sexual abuse at the institute. She said that the victims who came forward tried to meet the cardinal more than once — to no avail.
The Vatican did investigate the Próvolo Institute in 2010, acknowledging in 2012 that the abuses did occur; however, aside from a few light sanctions, the Vatican has said or done nothing further to date.
Another victim said that victims wrote several letters to the Vatican in 2013 and 2014. Not having received a response, some of those victims went to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and hand-delivered a letter to him.
In that meeting, the Pope asked for forgiveness for what happened and requested the victims pray for him. He did "nothing else," according to that victim.
Yet another victim, who was also present at that meeting with the Pope, confirmed the testimony, saying that Pope Francis said, "Forgive me" and then said a prayer.
In the face of inaction ― first as a cardinal and now as the pope ― some of these pedophile priests are being housed as guests in Vatican accommodations or freely roaming the streets.
Father Eligio Piccoli, a priest who once worked at the Próvolo Institute's main location in Verona, Italy, was resting in a Vatican accommodation in Negrar, near Verona, where a reporter approached him with some questions.
"Those things that the Association of the deaf is telling, are they true?" asked the reporter.
"Something is true, there is a lot of truth, but because they are corrupt," Piccoli began to answer.
"Who?" asked the reporter.
"The deaf-mute are all corrupt and have interests to protect," answered Piccoli.
"But are these stories true?" asked the reporter.
"Yes, they're true," said Piccoli.
Piccoli then talked about how most of the priests had engaged in these activities with the impaired children, including himself.
He spoke of a "cuddly" child who came into his room from the cold one day. According to Piccoli, the child exposed himself and the pedophile priest lost his head, performing some sexual act with the child.
The reporter then asked, "Anyway, was what happened in that room sinful?"
"No, it depends ... because males with males was a joke, those are jokes. However, if with a woman, it becomes more dangerous," said Piccoli. "What is sin? It's having fun with the evil, being pleased with the evil. But if you do something for a need, for a joke like this, come on."
"As one has the smoking habit, one has the habit of — you feel the urge to unload, that's it," concluded Piccoli.
Father Eliseo Pirmati, an Italian priest who worked in both Verona and La Plata, and who absconded to Verona in December 2017 to avoid prosecution in Argentina, was found freely wandering the streets of Verona in June. After Mass at Santa Teresa degli Scalzi in Verona one day, the pedophile priest was confronted by a journalist as he walked back to the Próvolo Institute in the city.
Anne Barret Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability, told the Associated Press that neither the Vatican nor the Pope will likely respond.
When the Verona institute made headlines in 2009 and 2010, Cdl. Bergoglio was president of the Argentine bishops' conference.
"He could have ordered an investigation of the Mendoza and La Plata schools then," she said. "And certainly, as pope, he could have acted years ago. He was notified by the Verona victims of Corradi's presence in Argentina."
Corradi, who stood trial on Monday, seems to have been the ringleader.