Italian church says 600 sex abuse cases sent to Vatican – Winnipeg Free Press


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Italy’s Catholic bishops have provided their first account of clergy sex abuse and revealed Thursday that more than 600 cases from Italy have been registered at the Vatican since 2000.

The Italian bishops’ conference report, which only covered complaints that local Italian church authorities had received over the past two years, did not mention the hundreds of cases. It identified 89 alleged victims and some 68 accused persons.

But responding to a reporter’s question at a press conference about the report, Bishop Giuseppe Baturi revealed that the bishops’ conference was looking for 613 records held in the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

FILE – Sexual abuse survivor Francesco Zanardi meets the media during a press conference in Rome, February 21, 2019. Italian Catholic bishops provided their first-ever account of clergy sexual abuse on Thursday, November 17, 2022, but Italy’s leading lawyer for the survivors, Zanardi, said it was “shamefully” insufficient given that it only covered reports to church authorities over the past two years and omitted documentary research into the archives of the church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, file)

In 2001, the Vatican asked dioceses around the world to send all credible reports of abuse to the Dicastery for processing. The Vatican had felt compelled to act after decades in which bishops and religious superiors moved predatory priests from one diocese to another rather than punishing them or reporting them to the police.

Baturi, the general secretary of the bishops’ conference, noted that some of the 613 cases may have been archived and some may contain multiple victims of a serial predator.

“We need to understand how many victims, what is their profile, who are responsible,” he said.

The almost random revelation underscored that the initial report of the bishops’ conference was not intended to provide an accurate or historical look at the problem of clergy abuse in Italy. The country’s bishops have never authorized such research despite survivors’ requests for a full account, which some other Catholic Churches in Europe have published.

Instead, the Italian bishops limited the scope of their report to assess the work of “listening centers” that have been set up in dioceses since 2019 to receive complaints from victims. Organizers told a press conference on Thursday that the report provided an “early snapshot” of the problem and that the bishops planned to publish annual reports from now on.

The report says 89 people have made reports over the past two years and identified 68 assailants. He revealed that most of the victims were between the ages of 15 and 18 when the abuse took place, although 16 were adults whom the church considered “vulnerable”. Most of the complaints were about inappropriate language or behavior and touching.

The numbers pale in comparison to the tally of known cases kept by Italy’s main survivor group, Rete L’Abuso, which estimates around 1 million victims in the predominantly Catholic country. The group identified some 178 accused priests, 165 priests convicted by Italian law enforcement and some 218 new cases.

Nonetheless, the numbers reported by Italian bishops even in the past two years were significant, said Francesco Zanardi, the head of Rete l’Abuso.

“If in two years they have received 89 complaints, that means the problem is there and it’s big,” he said in a telephone interview.

Zanardi noted that an unusually high percentage of defendants were lay church employees — about 34%, compared to 66% priests or religious brothers. He noted that lay abusers often find it easier to access potential victims in the extensive volunteer programs run by the Italian church because background checks are less stringent.

Monsignor Lorenzo Ghizzoni, who heads the Italian church’s national child protection service, said the figures in the report were significant given that the reporting period covered a period when church activities were closed or reduced due to COVID-19.

“It’s just a few, but there are many,” especially for a system to receive complaints that had just been launched, Ghizzoni said.

From the outset, the scope of the Italian report was far more limited than the approach taken by the Catholic hierarchy in many European countries to attempt to address claims of accountability for clergy sexual abuse.

When announcing the report due in May, the head of the Italian episcopal conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, insisted that the scope of the study and the reduced six-month deadline for its publication would allow researchers to provide a more “accurate and responsible” report. pointing.

Whether by government mandate, parliamentary inquiry or church initiation, such reports in Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and France have identified systemic problems that have allowed thousands of children from being abused by Catholic priests.

In France, an independent panel of experts estimated that 330,000 children were sexually abused over 70 years by some 3,000 priests and church staff, and that the crimes were “systematically” covered up by the church hierarchy. This report and a series of revelations about high-ranking attackers sparked a crisis of confidence in the French Catholic Church.

Zanardi alleged that the Italian report was clearly an attempt to “downplay” and conceal the extent of clergy sexual abuse in Italy. ” It is shameful. It’s partial and you don’t really know what it’s for,” he said.


Paolo Santalucia contributed to it.


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