Priests guilty of abus­ing deaf chil­dren

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - NEWS - By Al­mu­dena Cala­trava

MEN­DOZA, AR­GENTINA >> Two priests were found guilty on Mon­day of sex­u­ally abus­ing deaf chil­dren at a Catholi­crun school in Ar­gentina and sen­tenced to more than 40 years in pri­son, in a case that has shaken the church in Pope Fran­cis’s home­land.

A three-judge panel in the city of Men­doza sen­tenced the Rev. Ni­cola Cor­radi to 42 years and the Rev. Ho­ra­cio Cor­ba­cho to 45 years for abus­ing chil­dren at the An­to­nio Pro­volo In­sti­tute for Deaf and Hear­ing Im­paired Chil­dren in Lu­jan de Cuyo, a mu­nic­i­pal­ity in north­west­ern Ar­gentina.

Cor­radi, an 83-year-old Ital­ian, and Cor­ba­cho, a 59-year-old Ar­gen­tine, were ar­rested in 2016. The court also sen­tenced gar­dener Ar­mando Gómez to 18 years in pri­son.

It’s ex­pected that Cor­radi will re­main un­der house ar­rest be­cause of his age, while Cor­ba­cho and Gómez will be held in a pri­son in the city of Men­doza.

The ver­dicts can be ap­pealed.

The judges found the men guilty of 20 counts of abuse, in­clud­ing rape, that oc­curred be­tween 2005 and 2016 at the school, which has since shut down. The 10 vic­tims were for­mer stu­dents and all mi­nors at the time of the abuse. The ver­dict can be ap­pealed.

Pope Fran­cis has not com­mented pub­licly on the case, al­though in 2017, the Vat­i­can sent two Ar­gen­tine priests to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened in Men­doza.

“Thank God there has been jus­tice and peace for the vic­tims,” one of the priests, Dante Si­mon, told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Mon­day.

Af­ter the sen­tence was de­liv­ered, sev­eral vic­tims ex­pressed their joy in the court­house hall­way by jump­ing and rais­ing their arms in the air, as if they were clap­ping. They em­braced the pros­e­cu­tors who had in­ves­ti­gated their cases.

“I am happy, thank you so much for the bat­tle, be­cause ev­ery­one has sup­ported us . ... This has changed my life, which is evolv­ing,” said Van­ina Garay, 26, speak­ing with the help of an interprete­r.

The case has shocked Ar­gen­tines — as did the rev­e­la­tion that Cor­radi had been pre­vi­ously ac­cused of sim­i­lar of­fenses at a sis­ter agency, the An­to­nio Pro­volo In­sti­tute in Verona, Italy, but was never charged.

The Vat­i­can had known about Cor­radi since at least 2009, when the Ital­ian Pro­volo stu­dents went pub­lic with tales of abuse and named names. The Vat­i­can or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and sanc­tioned four ac­cused priests, but Cor­radi ap­par­ently never was sanc­tioned in Italy.

The de­fen­dants, who had pleaded in­no­cence, de­clined to make state­ments ahead of the judges’ rul­ing. They ap­peared somber as they ar­rived in the court­room, with Cor­radi in a wheel­chair, his gaze fixed on the ground.

In a state­ment, the Arch­bish­opric of Men­doza ex­pressed “sol­i­dar­ity and close­ness with the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, who have re­ported suf­fer­ing the most aber­rant mis­treat­ment” and vowed to “keep work­ing to en­sure that these sit­u­a­tions are not re­peated.”

The Pro­volo vic­tims have said they did not feel that the lo­cal church or the Vat­i­can were pro­tect­ing them.

“The Ar­gen­tine court has given the trau­ma­tized chil­dren of Pro­volo a mea­sure of jus­tice that the Catholic

Church failed to give them,” said Anne Bar­rett Doyle, co-founder of the on­line re­search data­base Bish­opAc­count­abil­ity.org.

“We hope the pros­e­cu­tors now will launch a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the arch­bish­ops and other church lead­ers who knew or should have known that the school was be­ing run by a child mo­lester,” she said.

Doyle also said “the pope too must ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for the unimag­in­able suf­fer­ing of these chil­dren. He ig­nored re­peated warn­ings that Cor­radi was in Ar­gentina.”

Pros­e­cu­tor Gus­tavo Strop­pi­ana was tear­ful as he said: “None of this can gen­er­ate joy, but it does bring sat­is­fac­tion be­cause we were able to judge acts that had been si­lenced for so many years.”

Si­mon, the in­ves­ti­ga­tor sent by the Vat­i­can, had pre­vi­ously told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the pon­tiff ex­pressed his sad­ness about the case and told him that “he was very wor­ried about this sit­u­a­tion.”

In a re­port sub­mit­ted ear­lier to the Vat­i­can, Si­mon re­quested the max­i­mum canon­i­cal penalty for Cor­radi and Cor­ba­cho, that they be made to “re­sign di­rectly by the Holy Fa­ther.” His re­port must be re­viewed by the Con­gre­ga­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith.

For­mer male and fe­male stu­dents tes­ti­fied that the priests touched and some­times raped them in their dor­mi­to­ries and school bath­rooms. They also said they were forced to look at porno­graphic im­ages. They said they were warned to keep quiet.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found records of com­plaints made by par­ents that weren’t fol­lowed up, pho­to­graphs of a naked girl on Cor­ba­cho’s com­puter and chains he al­legedly used to sub­due one girl.

MARCELO RUIZ MEN­DOZA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rev. Ni­cola Cor­radi, in wheel­chair, Ar­mando Gomez and Rev. Ho­ra­cio Cor­ba­cho, are es­corted out of a court­room in Men­doza, Ar­gentina, on Mon­day.

Vic­tims and rel­a­tives from the An­to­nio Pro­volo In­sti­tute for Deaf and Hear­ing Im­paired Chil­dren em­brace af­ter hear­ing a guilty ver­dict for their abusers, in Men­doza, Ar­gentina.

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