One Year After Vatican Abuse Summit, Survivors Grade Pope Francis With ‘D Minus’

Activists supporting Argentine deaf abuse victims of priests demonstrate in St. Peter’s Square, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at the Vatican. RNS photo by Claire Giangravé

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — One year after Pope Francis called for a summit of Catholic bishops at the Vatican, abuse survivors flocked to the Eternal City on Thursday (Feb. 20) to report a lack of progress and accountability in the fight against clergy sex abuse.

Three Argentine deaf abuse survivors of the notorious pedophile priest Nicola Corradi, who in November was convicted and sentenced to prison for the abuse of students at the Provolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children, gave a press conference in Rome on Thursday and stood in St. Peter’s Square demanding justice and reparations from the Catholic Church and Pope Francis.

“We demand a law that obligates the Vatican to stop the coverup and change the situation decisively,” said Daniel Sgardelis, one of the Argentine survivors, with the help of an interpreter at the press conference.

“The deaf have always suffered abuse from priests, and we need this to change. That’s enough!” he added.

Another survivor, Ezequiel Villalonga, explained that the group had just returned from a meeting with United Nations officials in Geneva where they accused the Catholic Church of withholding crucial evidence, failing to collaborate with civil authorities and refusing to pay reparations to the 24 victims of Corradi in Argentina.

“In Argentina we haven’t gotten justice,” Villalonga said. “Now we are survivors and we know our rights and we demand for this to stop.”

Argentine deaf abuse survivors of the notorious pedophile priest Nicola Corradi hold a press conference, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Rome. RNS photo by Claire Giangravé

The deaf victims of Corradi and other members of the Catholic clergy in Argentina were accompanied by their lawyers and representatives from other international survivor networks, Ending Clergy Abuse and bishopaccountability.org.

Corradi was a member of the religious order the Company of Mary, dedicated to the care of the deaf and mute and based in Verona, Italy. In 2009, he was accused of sexually abusing the deaf students at Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf along with another 24 priests, brothers and laypeople between the 1950s and 1980s. Over 65 deaf people in Verona claimed to have been sexually abused by clergy at the school when they were children.

None of the accused were prosecuted due to the Italian statute of limitations.

In 1970, for reasons that are unknown, the Vatican transferred Corradi and other clergy members, who would later be accused of abuse, to Argentina. He taught in schools at La Plata between 1970 and 1997 and in Mendoza between 1997 and 2016. There he sexually abused deaf students between the ages of 5 and 12.

The prosecutor in La Plata described Corradi’s abuses as marked by “unusual violence.” The victims reported being tortured, starved and forced to sleep naked outside. Most of the abuse targeted victims with no family, and students were punished if they tried to learn sign language.

The method adopted by the Provolo Institute was based on teaching the deaf to understand language by lip reading and body language. The students who left the institute did not know sign language and were never taught how to read or write.

Corradi was charged, along with two other priests — Horacio Corbacho and Armando Ramón Gómez Bravo — and sentenced to 42 years in prison for the sexual abuse of minors. Another trial is underway against nine women — including two religious sisters — who allegedly covered up and enabled the abuse.

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Source: Religion News Service