As Pope Francis’ continues to defend the Bishop of Chile, long identified as covering up abuse by a fellow priest who was later found guilty by the Vatican, we might remember the famous quote: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to remain silent”. The growing scandal of pedophile Catholic priests reveals the magnitude of institutionalised sexual abuse of children over decades, perhaps the greatest shock is the lengths to which the church hierarchy have gone to conceal and deny the abuse. Under the spotlight of the ‘Me Too’ movement, a pause to consider the survivors who do not have the privilege of a celebrity platform from which to speak…who did not in fact even have a voice to speak with…. those who were hearing impaired or mute. In considering the depth of depravity of pedophile priests we need look no further than the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verono Italy and the filmed confession of Father Nicholas Corradi:
“I never screamed..I could not speak”
Corradi worked in the Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children in Italy for many years and was one of several priests accused of sexual abuse by disabled children. When the church hierarchy failed to respond to their disclosures the children went public, naming their abusers. In 2012 (during the pontificate of Pope Benedict) The Congregation for the Defense of the Faith determined that Corradi had sexually abused deaf and mute children in Italy. The Vatican sanctioned four priests but Carradi went unpunished and relocated to Argentina where he took up employment at the Argentine Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing impaired children.
The Argentine Conference of Bishops, then headed by Cardinal Bergoglio (today Pope Francis) made no inquiries. Predictably the same abuse recurred and children again stepped forward courageously to allege rape and sexual abuse by Fr. Corradi and another priest and staff members. In 2014, the Italian victims wrote directly to Pope Francis expressing their concerns and stating that Corradi was now living in Argentina. The letter states: “This was done only after three years of fruitless contacts with the Curia of Verona and in order to prevent what happened to us from happening to other children” Pope Francis took no action and failed to open an independent investigation into Fr. Corradi’s alleged sexual abuse of these high risk children in Argentina. No effort was made to notify the Argentinian school or to recall Corradi to Italy.
On May 9, 2014, the Provolo survivors of Italy sent the Pope a video message in which the eight deaf mutes pleaded for justice and asked the Pope for the protection of the children. Francis took no action while Fr. Corradi continued to teach vulnerable children in Argentina. In 2015 Provolo Victims’ Association met with Pope Francis after ongoing publicity and personal pleas had failed and personally asked him for an independent investigation of the clerical abuse of deaf and mute children. There was no response to their urgent request. February 2016 in response to further repeated requests the Vatican Press Office informed them that the Pope had forwarded the victims’ request to the Italian Bishop’s Conference, (rather than the Papal Commission on the Protection of Minors) saying it was up to them to investigate the allegations.
In November 2016 Argentine police arrested 82 year old Fr Nicola Corradi (left) along with Fr Horacio Corbacho and three other men, all accused of physical and sexual child abuse at the Argentine Provolo Institute. When the police raided the school they found pornography and about $34,000 in Rev. Corradi’s room. Children said priests Nicola Corradi and the Rev. Horacio Corbacho repeatedly raped them by an image of the Virgin Mary inside the small school chapel. Abuse by priests is also alleged to have taken place in the confessional, and in the bathrooms, dorms, garden and a basement at the school. One of the alleged victims has stated that she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex. Another witness said “They always said it was a game: ‘Let’s go play, let’s go play’ and they would take us to the girls’ bathroom,”
Footnote: May 2017: A Roman Catholic nun was arrested, accused of helping five priests sexually abuse deaf children at the Argentine Provolo Institute. Kosaka Kumiko, 42, allegedly helped the priests cover up anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex. Authorities began investigating Kumiko when a former student claimed she made her wear a nappy to cover up bleeding after she was raped. At least 24 children have come forward to report abuse at the school. Hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers. We must ask why Carradi was not removed by the Vatican after they determined he had sexually abused children in Italy and why it ignored the repeated pleas to protect the children in Pope Francis’ native Argentina.
Assertions of coming reform now ring a little hollow in light of continued evidence which makes it difficult not to conclude that the Vatican prioritises the protection of pedophile priests and the church over abused children.
Follow this series: #Letters to priests’