Sentences in the so-called 'Próvolo' abuse case, in which two priests and a gardener stand accused of sexually abusing deaf children in their care, will be handed down next week as the curtain begins to close on a case that has sent shockwaves through Argentina's Catholic Church.
Priests Nicola Corradi, an 83-year-old Italian, and 61-year-old Argentine Horacio Corbacho, as well as former gardener Armando Gómez, 51, are accused of sexual abuse, corruption of children and mistreatment at a Catholic school for deaf children, for which they could face up to 50 years in jail. Criminal Court No. 2 of Mendoza, led by judges Carlos Díaz, Aníbal Crivelli, and Mauricio Juan, will hand down their verdict on Monday.
The case relates to the alleged abuse of around 20 children from the Próvolo Institute in the western town of Mendoza, founded in 1995, which Corradi headed until his arrest in November 2016. The priests have been charged with 28 alleged crimes, including rape and sexual abuse, aggravated by their positions as guardians of minors.
A fourth person was charged, 57-year-old administrator Jorge Bordón. Just over a year ago, he broke his silence to acknowledge participation in at least 11 acts of abuse. In a shortened trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail, after lawyers for the defence and the prosecution agreed a plea deal.
Complaints at the institute came to light at the end of 2016, creating a scandal that deepened when it emerged that Corradi had been reported for similar allegations previously at the Antonio Próvolo institute in Verona, Italy, and that Pope Francis had been notified that Corradi was running a similar centre in Argentina.
The Argentine pontiff has yet to comment on the situation publicly – despite its closeness to his papacy.
Speaking last Friday, lawyers for the victims called for Corbacho to be handed 50 years in jail for his alleged crimes.
Lucas Lecour and Sergio Salinas, from Xumek, the Mendoza-based human rights organisation that has formed part of the legal team for the victims, also asked for 15 years in prison for Corradi and Gómez. Their requests represent the maximum possible sentence under Argentina’s penal code for these types of crimes.
The trial began in August, and verdicts and sentences are expected to be announced Monday.
Lecour, president of Xumek, explained to the state news agency Télam last week that “in 24 years of this work, this is the most important case of my life.”
Another one of the plaintiff attorneys, Salinas, highlighted that the full extent charge sheet against the accused would likely raise their sentence even higher.
The two priests and the gardener are accused of sexual abuse, assault and rape of minors as well as the corruption of minors, totalling 28 criminal counts.
Corbacho is accused of 16 events: three of sexual abuse and defilement; seven of sexual assault; four of simple sexual abuse; one for grave sexual abuse; and one for corruption of minors.
Corradi is accused of six events: two of grave sexual abuse; one for sexual abuse and defilement; one for rape and two for corruption of minors.
While the Italian priest has 10 fewer charges than his Argentine counterpart, his judicial situation is exacerbated due to the fact he was in charge of running the institute and was responsible for the wellbeing of the children under his care.
The gardener Gomez faces six counts: one for sexual abuse; one for grave sexual abuse; two for sexual abuse with rape and defilement; and two for corruption of minors.