This week the Vatican announced that it would be responding to allegations that “Pope Francis covered up” sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Claims of this action were recently brought to light by former Vatican Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò who wrote an open letter to the pope calling him out for his lack of action in the cases of sex abuse in the Catholic church.
In his 2010 book, On Heaven and Earth, Francis famously claimed that sex abuse by clergy “has never occurred in [his] diocese.” According to Life Site News, evidence stating to the contrary has recently come to light which describes Francis’s involvement in several cover-ups of clerical sexual predators in South America, including in his own archdiocese. The outlet reports that Francis continued his involvement in at least two of these cases during his papacy.
French news program Cash Investigation released a documentary in 2017 where six individuals claimed that they were sex abuse victims in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. The individuals told reporters that they had been sexually abused by clergy so they wrote to Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, to inform him of the abuse. The individuals reported that they did not receive an answer.
To date, Pope Francis has only expressed regret for being a part of one cover-up. The pope expressed regret for being a part of the Barros affair, following a massive public outcry in Chile over his aggressive tactics against victims. The other cases continue to be hushed.
Life Site News reports that the pope recently told sex abuse survivors in Ireland that those involved in sex abuse cover-ups are “caca” (feces) and noting that such priests should be removed.
The example of the case of Julio César Grassi, illustrates contrary behavior on the part of the pope, however. Grassi is an Argentinian priest known for his work with poor and orphan children, and in 2013 became the subject of numerous sex abuse accusations by teens from his facilities. Grassi was convicted of sexually abusing a minor in 2013 and was given a sentence of more than 15 years in prison.
Despite this, Life Site News reports that Grassi has never been tried in any ecclesiastical court. Additionally, Grassi still maintains his priesthood and continues to wear his collar in prison. As of August 2017, he was still listed among diocesan clergy, meaning that the Diocese of Morón, where he was initially granted priesthood, was continuing to extend priestly faculties to him including the ability to hear confessions. Grassi was, however, stripped of the right to perform public sacraments, and the current list of diocesan clerics no longer includes his name.
The Diocese of Morón has publicly stated that the issue of Grassi’s priesthood is in the hands of the Vatican.
Following the Supreme Court’s unanimous conviction of Grassi in March of 2017, the Diocese of Morón issued a press release revealing that “The Holy See has opportunely ordered a preliminary investigation regarding the accusations about the conduct of this priest,” and that this had resulted in “a report that was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” and added that the diocese “will act in accordance with the prevailing canonical processes determined by the Holy See.” Despite this, the Pope has yet to strip Grassi of his priestly faculties.
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