Survivors of church sex
abuse descended on Rome
this week, marking the
first anniversary of Pope Francis’ summit of Church leaders
on preventing abuse with calls
for more accountability and acknowledgment of their pain.
On Thursday, three deaf-mute Argentines marched to St.
Peter’s Square. They were
among the victims of violent
sexual abuse by priests in the
Argentine branch of the Instituto Antonio Próvolo, a Catholicrun school for the deaf that also
saw dozens of victims at its
school in Verona, Italy.
Recently, an Argentine court
convicted two Provolo priests,
Nicola Corradi and Horacio
Corbacho, of repeatedly abusing and raping the children
— including one who also was
flagged to Francis as early as in
2014 as an abuser in Verona.
They both received jail terms of
more than 40 years behind bars.
“Support the Próvolo survivors,” read a banner carried by
the victims in front of St. Peter’s
Square. The survivors are demanding “justice” and “reparation” from the Church.
“We have suffered a lot. I need
a law that forces the Vatican not
to cover up more [crimes]. The
deaf have suffered abuse from
priests and we need this to
change,” Daniel Sgardelis, 45,
told the press in sign language.
at a press conference close to
the Holy See.
“I do not like the Church.
They have abused a lot and I
need this to stop. The pope is
there quiet, in the Vatican,
without giving us proof. That
has to stop. This is enough,” said
Ezequiel Villalonga, 19, speaking through an interpreter.
The victims say they are seeking “justice” and reparations,
as well as a promise that what
they suffered will not be repeated elsewhere in the world.
The trio have requested a
meeting with the pontiff, during their stay in Rome, which
ends today. They have yet to
receive a response – publicly or
privately – from the Vatican.
Also marching was Mary
Dispenza, a survivor of abuse
by both a priest and a nun. She
and members of the US-based
victims’ advocacy group SNAP
walked to the headquarters of
the umbrella group of religious
sisters and secured a meeting
with its executive secretary, Sister Patricia Murray.
Their aim was to request that
the organisation, UISG, speak
out more about the unacknowledged problem of nuns
who sexually abuse children
and other nuns. Much of the
abuse crisis has focused on
priests raping and molesting
children. Little has been said or
done about the problem of abuses committed by nuns.
“Did we accomplish anything? I’m not sure. Sister Patricia was genuine in her concern,” Dispenza told The Associated Press in an email.
This week’s activism has
been sparked by the one-year
anniversary of Francis’ February 21-24, 2019, summit, during which he convened the
heads of national synods from
around the world for a four-day
tutorial on preventing sexual
He called the summit after he
himself misjudged the scope of
the scandal, especially in Chile,
and after the scandal re-ignited
in the US following revelations
of decades of systemic cover-up
in Pennsylvania and the case of
ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Francis defrocked the US
church leader for abusing adults
In the year since the summit,
Francis has passed two major
legal reforms: He has removed
the so-called pontifical secrecy
from sex abuse cases, meaning
bishops and religious superiors
now can cooperate more freely
with law enforcement during
criminal investigations of abusers. And he passed a law requiring all abuse be reported to the
Church — but not police — including abuse committed by
At a press conference this
week, experts from BishopAccountability, an online database
of the abuse crisis, praised the
legal developments and the
awareness that the global summit brought to Church leaders
who have long refused to believe victims. But they said more
needed to be done.
“The Vatican and the Pope’s
main failure is in not implementing a strong, universal, zero
tolerance law,” said the group’s
co-founder, Anne Barrett Doyle. “If you are found guilty once of sexually abusing a child,
you are permanently removed
from public ministry and you
are closely monitored by the