Mendoza (Argentina): Two priests were found guilty of sexually abusing deaf children at a Catholic-run school in Argentina and sentenced to more than 40 years in prison, a case that has shaken the church in Pope Francis's homeland.
A three-judge panel in the city of Mendoza sentenced on Monday the Rev. Nicola Corradi to 42 years and the Rev. Horacio Corbacho to 45 years for abusing children at the Antonio Provolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Lujan de Cuyo, a municipality in northwestern Argentina. Corradi, an 83-year-old Italian, and Corbacho, a 59-year-old Argentine, were arrested in 2016.
The court also sentenced gardener Armando Gmez to 18 years in prison. The verdicts can be appealed.
The judges found the men guilty of 20 counts of abuse, including rape, which occurred between 2005 and 2016 at the school, which has since shut down. The 10 victims were former students and all minors at the time of the abuse. The verdict can be appealed.
After the sentence was delivered, several of the victims expressed their joy in the courthouse hallway by jumping and raising their arms in the air, as if they were clapping. They also embraced the prosecutors who had investigated their cases.
“I am happy, thank you so much for the battle, because everyone has supported us. ... This has changed my life, which is evolving,” said Vanina Garay, 26, speaking to reporters with the help of an interpreter.
The case has shocked Argentines as did the revelation that Corradi had been previously accused of similar offences at a sister agency, the Antonio Provolo Institute in Verona, Italy, but was never charged.
The Vatican had known about Corradi since at least 2009, when the Italian Provolo students went public with tales of abuse and named names. The Vatican ordered an investigation and sanctioned four accused priests, but Corradi apparently never was sanctioned in Italy.
The defendants, who had pleaded innocence, declined to make statements ahead of the judges' ruling. They appeared somber as they arrived in the courtroom, with Corradi in a wheelchair, his gaze fixed on the ground.
In a statement, the Archbishopric of Mendoza expressed solidarity and closeness with the victims and their families, who have reported suffering the most aberrant mistreatment and vowed to keep working to ensure that these situations are not repeated. The Provolo victims have said they did not feel that the local church or the Vatican were protecting them.
The Argentine court has given the traumatized children of Provolo a measure of justice that the Catholic Church failed to give them, said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of the online research database BishopAccountability.org, to the Associated Press.
The horror of Provolo is twofold: the torture of the children and the Church's failure to prevent it. We hope the prosecutors now will launch a criminal investigation of the archbishops and other church leaders who knew or should have known that the school was being run by a child molester.
Doyle also said that the Pope too must accept responsibility for the unimaginable suffering of these children. He ignored repeated warnings that Corradi was in Argentina.
Pope Francis has not commented publicly on the case, though in 2017, the Vatican sent two Argentine priests to investigate what happened in Mendoza. Dante Simon, a judicial vicar, told The Associated Press that the "horrible" allegations are "more than plausible.”