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MENDOZA, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - Two priests and a gardener found guilty of sexually abusing deaf children in Argentina will be sentenced on Monday. Pope Francis has known about this case since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
On Monday, Judges Carlos Díaz, Aníbal Crivelli and Mauricio Juan of Criminal Court No. 2 in Mendoza will deliver their verdict for Fr. Nicola Corradi, Fr. Horacio Corbacho and former gardener Armando Gómez.
The two priests and former gardener have been accused of sexual abuse, corruption of children and mistreatment at Mendoza's Antonio Próvolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children, a Catholic school founded in 1830 by Fr. Antonio Próvolo.
The three face a total of 28 criminal charges that include rape of minors, sexual abuse and assault.
Corbacho faces 16 criminal accusations: seven counts of sexual assault, three of sexual abuse and defilement and one for corruption of minors.
Corradi faces six criminal accusations: two counts of grave sexual abuse, two counts for corruption of minors one count of sexual abuse and defilement and one count of rape.
Gomez faces six charges: two for sexual abuse with rape and defilement, two for corruption of minors and one for sexual abuse.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs are seeking the maximum possible sentence according to Argentina's penal code for these crimes.
The accused face a total of 20–50 years' imprisonment, which will depend on the number of charges and exacerbating circumstances. Corradi has few charges but was responsible for the daily operations at the institute, which will likely aggravate his verdict.
The crimes committed at the institute in Mendoza were not isolated incidents. Abuse also occurred at sister Próvolo Institute campuses in La Plata, Argentina and Verona, Italy.
A reporter interviewed Fr. Eligio Piccoli, a priest who worked at the institute in Verona and who is alleged to have participated in the sexual abuse.
Piccoli was resting at a Vatican accommodation in Negrar, near Verona, when the reporter approached.
"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 a 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.
The Vatican investigated the Próvolo Institute in 2010, acknowledging in 2012 that the abuses took place. To date, the Vatican has neither said nor done anything apart from imposing a few minor penalties for some of the perpetrators. This inaction has allowed some of these pedophile priests to roam the streets freely ― as is the case with Fr. Eliseo Pirmati ― and even be housed as guests in Vatican accommodations.
One victim wrote letters to Pope Francis in 2013 and 2014 but never received a response.
He and other victims went to Rome to meet the pope and hand-deliver a letter to him.
The pope asked for forgiveness and asked the victims to pray for him. He did "nothing else," according to that victim.
Another victim who was present at the meeting confirmed the testimony, saying that the pope said, "Forgive me," and then said a prayer.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability, told The Associated Press that "the pope was president of the Argentine bishops' conference [when the scandal was exposed in 2009 and 2019]. He could have ordered an investigation of the Mendoza and La Plata schools then."
"And certainly, as pope, he could have acted years ago. He was notified by the Verona victims of Corradi's presence in Argentina," she added.
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