Pope Francis Accused of Covering Up Sex Abuse Case

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by Martin Barillas  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 28, 2020   

New scandal rocks Argentina

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Argentine man has accused Pope Francis of covering up allegations of rape and sexual abuse at the hands of a priest.

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Pope Francis and Sergio Decuyper

On Sept. 19, Sergio Decuyper, 42, of Argentina accused a disabled octogenarian priest, who is also his uncle, of raping him at the age of five years. Father José Francisco Decuyper, 85, is facing criminal charges in Argentina for alleged abuse said to have occurred decades ago in the Argentine city of Paraná. Because he currently lives in Spain, accuser Decuyper made his criminal complaint via Skype to Argentine authorities in the province of Entre Ríos, north of Buenos Aires.

According to Decuyper, he was abused by his uncle in 1982 when the latter served at the seminary nearby. Decuyper said that afterward he suffered migraine headaches and later had difficulty with personal relationships. However, he married and became a father. He claimed that his now ex-wife, a physician, diagnosed him as a victim of serious psychological trauma. "I am a homosexual," he told Argentine newspaper Clarin, "and now I can say it. She is now my friend, who supports and accompanies me throughout the process."

Francis reportedly believed Decuyper's account, telling him to get a therapist but not hurt family members by sharing his story.

In an interview with NoticiasDecuyper said that he and his ex-wife were "super-religious," but do not consider themselves Catholic now. "Even though we are separated," he told Noticias, "we cooperate." They have two children together. "I have just come out of the closet," he said, adding, "I was always homosexual, but because of my upbringing, I could not accept it. It was my ex-wife who helped me." He said that he is also getting support from his current male partner.

Phone Call With Francis

Decuyper said that a recurrent dream revealed to him in 2019 an untapped memory of the assault. Spurred by the supposed recollection, Decuyper sent a letter to Pope Francis in January 2019 recounting the buried memory. On St. Patrick's Day, the pope telephoned and spoke with Decuyper for 30 minutes. Francis reportedly believed Decuyper's account, telling him to get a therapist but not hurt family members by sharing his story. The pope asked Decuyper to forgive his assailant and to inform the bishop of Entre Ríos.

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In April 2019, Decuyper traveled to Argentina to tell his parents about the alleged abuse, claiming that they asked him refrain from charges. On a visit to the priest in hospice, Decuyper said that his uncle did not recognize him. He told the newspaper, "It is hard to forgive him, but I know that I don't hate him. I believe that he has traumas, too, and is a victim of the system." In addition, he recognizes that his uncle has Alzheimer's and "Doesn't have any idea of what's going on." He said that "all of this should mean something" and that the pope should call him again so that they can talk about "seriously changing things."

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Bp. Juan Alberto Puiggari

Decuyper met the pope May 4, 2019 at the Casa Santa Marta papal residenceThey chatted for about 30 minutes and took a selfie together. Decuyper claimed that the pope asked him to confide in Bp. Juan Alberto Puiggari of Entre Ríos but warned him not to trust "hypocritical" journalists.

When Decuyper confessed his homosexuality and plans to separate from his wife, the pope allegedly told him that he should honor his marriageDecuyper said that the pope re-emphasized that he should work on forgiveness and mercy, but to continue the process in "silence.”

In the Noticias interview, he claimed that the pope told him:

Be careful with journalists because they are very hypocritical on this issue ... All of the journalists want me to bring priests here and hang them in [St. Peter's] square ... This is happening throughout society and now they want to cast the blame solely on priests.

Decuyper told Clarin that the papal audience "blew his mind," and prompted him to get therapy and medication. He also told the pope that he would soon file canonical and criminal charges.

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Cdl. Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer

Voicing Concern in Rome

According to Decuyper, a canonical investigation of his accusations commenced last yearbut the case was closed in January 2020 because of his alleged abuser's current mental state. Unsatisfied, Decuyper went to Rome and saw the pope Sept. 9, along with others, in St. Peter's Square

When he wasn't granted another private audience, Decuyper went to a Vatican office where he was given blank sheets of paper to write down his accusations. In Sept. 11 letter to Cdl. Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Decuyper restated his accusation against his uncle and voided his Jan. 16, 2019 letter. He claimed that the initial letter was "under duresswhile he was receiving therapy in Spain. He also wants a new canonical investigation into his claims.

In addition, he accused both "Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis" and Bp. Puiggari of a "cover-up," while charging the bishop with illicit economic gain.

'Don't File the Charge'

In a Sept. 23 letter to the pope, Decuyper wrote that Francis apparently confused him with another sexual assault victim while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter's Square earlier in the month. Decuyper wrote that the pope listened to him despite the crowd. "That hastiness," Decuyper wrote, "led you to tell me 'Don't file the charge; your abuser is demented, lost.'" Decuyper offered in the letter: "Let's talk calmly. I can go to see you. Then we can go to Paraná. Please call me. I am doing this through the media because it is hard to reach you through other means. I have done this out of goodwill. I want to help you."

The letter also read:

Dear Pope Francis, you asked me to be creative, that my testimony could help other victims from Paraná. You called me, you received me in your home, you listened to me. Although I do not agree with the advice you gave me, I thank you. You say that "gossip" is the worst social poison; help me to nip it in the bud. I invite you to go with me to Paraná, that heart of your native country: It's where your [Italian immigrant] grandparents landed. Let's talk in person; let's travel together and provide solutions. I will keep calling you, knocking on your door. On Nov. 16, I will travel to Rome again. I will participate in your meeting on economics. Let's talk; let's organize together a trip to Paraná.

In his letter to the pope, Decuyper proposed that the Church should subsidize victims' psychological therapy.

The Church should subsidize victims' psychological therapy.

"We must help [victims] pay for psychologists and psychiatrists, at a minimum. We have created an association in Paraná for that purpose. I ask for your help so that canon law is not applied to cases of sexual abuse in Argentina and that, upon receiving a report of abuse, a bishop should be required to make a criminal complaint. With a simple reform, it would be a big step for the victim. Let us talk about Catholics' bad education, which leads some of them to reject me. Let us talk about sexuality in the Church. Diversity. Be calm."

Finally, he wrote, "The criminal charge against my abuser is underway. One must always file charges. Forgiveness, which is necessary in the healing process of the victim, should always come with atonement. I expect you to call. I want to help you."

Encouraging Other Victims

In a Sept. 19 YouTube video, Decuyper called on sexual abuse victims to file charges against their abusers and to seek psychological counseling. "Even if the priest is old and has Alzheimer's, you have to file charges," he saidSaying that he has filed charges against his uncle for reasons of health, Decuyper said, "The more that light enters a house, there is less bacteria and fewer diseases as a result." 

He also said that he fears that his uncle may have abused others who have yet to come forward. Decuyper said in an interview with EntreRiosAhora that, while his parents believe his version of the story, they have not accompanied him on the criminal charges.

Even if the priest is old and has Alzheimer's, you have to file charges.

When he was asked whether he remains a believer, Decuyper told Noticias, "I had to create a religion to my own taste. I attend Mass in a village where I feel comfortable. I am not practicing, but I am grateful to that religion for many things. I believe in people and their generosity."

He added to that gratitude, saying: "Trusting others is part of my faith in God. I thank Catholicism for how I relate to n
ature and my life and for being positive despite all of the messages coming out about my sexual orientation and abuse."

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