In a ruling considered historic, Mendoza Judge María Lilen Sánchez has ordered that multi-million-peso compensation be paid to an ex-pupil of Antonio Próvolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Mendoza Province who suffered serious sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church will be required to pay 14.4 million pesos in total via its San José charity, which is linked to the institute, the judge ordered.
The ruling comes five years after the start of a trial which ended in convictions for Horacio Corbacho and Nicola Corradi, two priests who were in charge of the children at the centre. In November 2019, they were condemned to prison sentences of 45 and 42 years respectively for the sexual abuse and rape of more than 20 deaf and dumb pupils, all minors, while gardener Armando Gómez was sentenced to 18 years. The victims were aged between four and 17 at the time of the events. Corradi, who died last July, was granted house arrest, given his age and fragile health.
Following this latest ruling, the families of the victims demonstrated outside the Mendoza courtroom to denounce Church interference throughout the trial alongside presumed abandonment by the state.
"It’s a ruling marking a milestone in Mendoza legal history, not only for being the first for this kind of aberrant crime but also because it applies norms of constitutional law with an absolute perspective of human rights for the handicapped," said the lawyers Oscar Barrera and Leandro Lanci, who represented a group of victims and who decided to make the court ruling public.
The judge’s order, they added, "analyses the different particular situations of the case, giving preponderance to the value of justice, because this ruling definitely does justice."
Two days after the sentence against the priests in 2019, the Catholic Church begged pardon for the abuses committed at the Mendoza institute, trusting that the criminal sentences against the accused "bring peace to the victims who have suffered so much."
"The Church never covered up the priests in question and canon law took its course within the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith," indicated La Plata suffragan bishop Alberto Bochatey, adding: "[The Church] never hid information nor withheld collaboration." As for the sexual abuses, Bochatey quoted Pope Francis as calling them "a crime causing deep wounds of pain and impotence" while further adding that what happened "has also done immense damage to the Church in Mendoza."