‘The Smooching Priest’

by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 4, 2016   

Homosexual, sex-abusing priest ring uncovered in Brindisi, Italy archdiocese

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By Juliana Freitag

The archdiocese of Brindisi-Ostuni reportedly has a network of homosexual, sexually abusive priests.
The first offense came to public light when the Italian investigative TV show "Le iene" received an anonymous email stating that underage boys in Brindisi had suffered sex abuse at the hands of Fr. Giampero Peschiulli, 73. The program then commissioned youthful-looking actors (one who claimed to be 16) to meet with the priest, and then secretly recorded their actions. Footage shows Fr. Peschiulli caressing the faces of the male actors and aggressively hugging and kissing them — all while wearing his Roman collar. The episode, titled "The Smooching Priest," aired toward the end of 2014.
The airing led to police inquiries, resulting in several accusations from victims of sexual assault going as far back as 2002. The parents of some of the victims declared they had sought help from the archbishop of Brindisi-Ostuni at the time, Msgr. Rocco Talucci, who "seemed surprised at the fact that the youngsters were talking about the abuse, and invited the victims not to press charges and not share the incidents with anyone else."
The accusations that eventually led to the priest's prosecution in January of this year involved two of his altar boys, who revealed they had been suffering abuse since 2012, when both of them were under 14. The boys explained in detail how Peschiulli approached them when he was already in Mass vestments. He had a preference for boys, they claimed, always getting rid of any females in his presence, whom he referred to as "little whores only interested in sex."
Father Peschiulli left his parish a few days after "The Smooching Priest" aired, and was defrocked by the Holy See in December 2014. He went to live in the small town of Terracina, where he continued to concelebrate Mass and interacted with the faithful, who were unaware of his circumstances. Investigators declared that "it was very clear that Fr. Peschiulli continued to exercise his priesthood at least until January 2015."
Peschiulli was put under house arrest in May 2015, as local police continued to see him as a danger. He was kept in confinement in a religious recovery community until January 2016, when he was sentenced to three years and eight months' imprisonment for performing sexual acts with minors.
The magistrates have outlined Fr. Peschiulli's personality as "invasive in the sexual sphere of the victims," determining that "his deviant behavior is characterized by his tendency to look for sexual interactions with underage males." They also declared that his personal dossier from his seminary days "was of extreme relevance" to their work. The files contained detailed notes from 1965 and 1969 that revealed Peschiulli had "a tendency to monopolize affections in friendships" and "was excessive in his manifestations of affection towards other seminarians." Among the apprehended material was also Giampero's personal computer, which contained pornography mainly of pubescent and post-pubescent boys.
Phone taps revealed the priest routinely set up appointments with Brazilian male prostitutes, justifying his actions with claims that "if the boys stayed, it's because they liked it." In conversations with a personal friend and with his housekeeper, he frequently mentioned his privileged relationship with Abp. Talucci, former archbishop of Brindisi, who "would have protected him." Current archbishop Domenico Caliandro's name came up many times as well, as the accused priest insisted in remarking that Msgr. Domenico was unfairly taking measures against him while ignoring other priests in the region who behaved a lot more explicitly, "even taking the boys on trips."
In one of the recorded conversations with his housekeeper, they compare both archbishops and their management of the affair:
Housekeeper: Because you, being close friends with Rocco Talucci, Rocco Talucci ... hid certain complaints that were made in the Curia in preceding years, no?
Peschiulli: Eh, yes.
Housekeeper: That he [Abp. Domenico Caliandro] made available ... and there's nothing there, nothing special. ... I don't know what sort of relationship he has with Rocco Talucci, but from the outside it seems to me that ... he's trying to show ... "I am not like him."
Peschiulli: No, no, he doesn't speak at all with Talucci.
Housekeeper: No? Ahhh. So, I told you ... I can see he wants to prove that he's not like Talucci ... that's he's a righteous person.
Peschiulli: "Yes. ... He doesn't speak at all with Talucci. ... I'll tell you this ... if Talucci had remained, he'd have handled the situation."
In November 2014, when Peschiulli was already living in Terracina, the police intercepted one of his calls with a close friend:
Peschiulli: I am being a priest in every sense.
Friend: Enough of all that; come back!
Peschiulli: The lawyer told me to wait for the end of the investigation. And then it'll be our turn to put the huge headlines on the papers. ... If I had taken anyone inside my own home ... . That's what destroys me. ... If I had done as so many others do, who go to clubs and sometimes even cross-dress, I didn't do any of this. ... Home and church, church and home.
Friend: Sure enough there are these types like Caramia who do everything in broad daylight and nobody ever bothers them.
Peschiulli: Indeed, no. But I've written that in the letter [to Abp. Domenico Caliandro]. His Excellency, if you want scandals, you should look at all other parishes, especially the one in Bozzano ... . There are priests who have them living at home. ... If I decide to speak, so many would lose their collars.
Archbishop Talucci was invited to present himself as a witness at the public prosecutor's office, where he allegedly minimized the gravity of the situation. His participation in the investigation then came to an end. Some speculate His Excellency's entanglement in the ring of homosexual clergy in Brindisi-Ostuni has been more involved than what's reported.
In the next instalment: A priest's odd friendship with a transsexual boy claiming to receive Marian visions.
Juliana Freitag is ChurchMilitant.com's Italian correspondent.


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