Argentine abuse investigation involves priest previously reported to Pope Francis

Flag of Argentina. Credit: Henner Damke/Shutterstock
Flag of Argentina. Credit: Henner Damke/Shutterstock

.- An Argentine investigation into clerical sexual abuse involves a priest previously accused of abuse in Italy, who was the subject of a 2014 letter to Pope Francis from sexual abuse victims concerned about his ongoing ministry.

The priest, Fr. Nicola Corradi, is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

He was arrested in 2016, along with another priest and three other men after at least 20 children claimed to have been abused at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, Argentina, according to the Associated Press.

A religious sister, Sr. Kosako Kumiko, was arrested in May 2017, and charged with facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students claim that Kumiko herself committed sexual abuse as well. She has maintained her innocence.

Argentine police raided a Provolo Institute campus in La Plata last week, seizing documents as part of their investigation. The raid, which took place Sept. 6, seized documents and records that could pertain to charges dating back to at least 1987.

Corradi was first accused of sexual abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, during a period of time spanning several decades. After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

Pope Francis was notified directly of the allegations against Corradi in 2014, when former students of in the school wrote to him and Verona’s bishop, expressing concern that Corradi was living in Argentina and apparently still in priestly ministry.

They reportedly got no response from the pope, but they did receive a limited response from the Vatican. According to the Associated Press, Vatican official Archbishop Giovanni Becciu wrote to the group in 2016, saying that he had referred their request for an investigation to the Italian bishops’ conference.

In the same year, Corradi and others were arrested on the charges of sexual abuse made against them in Argentina. Pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested, according to the Associated Press.

The Archdiocese of Mendoza told the Associated Press in 2016 it had been unaware of the allegations made previously against Corradi in Italy, saying it had not been informed about them by the priest’s religious community.

If convicted by Argentine prosecutors, Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison.

This is not the first case in which Pope Francis has been accused of inaction in response to reports about clerical sexual abuse.

In 2015, he was hand-delivered a letter from Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean abuse victim, who accused Chilean Bishop Juan Barros of covering-up and participating in sexual abuse perpetrated by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The pope continued to defend Barros, calling allegations against him “slander,” until a 2018 media firestorm led the pope to say that he had made “serious errors in judgement regarding the matter,” which he attributed to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.” He accepted Barros’ resignation shortly thereafter.

Francis has not answered questions about whether he received to Cruz letter, or how he responded to it.

In August, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, former Vatican ambassador to the US, wrote a testimonial claiming that Francis had been aware of allegations that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually assaulted and abused seminarians and young priests. Viganò claimed that Francis lifted restrictions formerly placed on McCarrick’s ministry after receiving that information.

The pope has not yet spoken on that matter.

Tags: Catholic News, Argentina, Clerical sexual abuse, Fr. Nicola Corradi