Wednesday 14 November 2018

Trail of Church sex abuse leads to Pope Benedict

LARA BRADLEY CHARITY boss Colm O'Gorman will take on the Vatican for the second time in a hard-hitting documentary to be broadcast tonight.

The chief of child abuse charity One in Four sparked national outrage back in 2002 when he worked on Suing the Pope - which led directly to the resignation of the then Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, and the establishment of the Ferns Inquiry.

Now he has teamed up with the same BBC producer to make a similarly shocking Panorama programme called Sex Crimes and the Vatican.

The documentary, seen by the Sunday Independent, shows that while child sex abuse scandals were coming to light in Ireland the Vatican was continuing to implement policies which allowed similar abuses to continue in developing countries.

The programme, presented by Mr O'Gorman, pins the blame directly on Pope Benedict XVI.

Mr O'Gorman said: "The Ferns Report was the first ever to examine the Vatican's role in child sex abuse cases. It uncovered a 1962 document which lays out very clearly the church policy that all cases were to be referred directly to the Vatican department headed for 20 years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger."

He added: "He directed how these cases were dealt with, he was known as the previous Pope's Enforcer, and now he is Pope himself, so he has a unique knowledge and responsibility.

"Suing the Pope was very much about Ferns and we got that looked at, but what happened there wasn't unique to Ferns, nor even to Ireland.

"At the very same time that the scandals were breaking in Ireland, known child abusers in other countries were being moved from parish to parish, and a deliberate policy of swearing victims and all others involved in cases of clerical sexual abuse to absolute secrecy under threat of ex-communication was continuing."

Mr O'Gorman's point is horrifically illustrated by the case of Father Tarcisio Tadeu Spricigo, a 48-year-old priest who was known to have abused children in every one of the four parishes he was moved to before he ended up in an impoverished parish in Brazil. There he repeatedly raped a five-year-old boy who lived three doors from him.

The child's grandmother, Eliza da Silva, said: "He woke me one morning and said, 'Granny I know how to make love.' He said, 'If I tell Mummy and Daddy they will beat me.' That is how I learned. We had let him take guitar lessons from the priest.

"I trusted the Father because I have been a Catholic all my life and never thought this could happen. The kids in the street call him 'The Priest's Little Wife' and he just cries and cries. He often tells me he just wants to die."

Mrs da Silva's accusations of abuse against the priest led to her being ostracised in her community. She said: "The church was angry with me. It felt like I was excommunicated. People would run from me in the street."

It looked like Father Tadeu Spricigo was going to get away with his crime until investigators found his diary, which read like a paedophile priests' how-to manual.

In it he wrote that he preferred boys aged between seven and 10, from "poor social condition . . . preferably with no father, only a lonely mother or sister". He noted the best way to "attract them [is] with guitar lessons, choir, altar boy . . .ingratiate yourself with family". He was jailed last year for 14 years.

Mr O'Gorman said: "Not once did anyone in the church call with the family to offer them any kind of support, even after the priest wasconvicted.

"If the church is serious about child protection it will surely bring the same changes to developing countries as those forced in Ireland. But it has clearly and wilfully ignored child protection.

"This is about a five-year-old boy in Brazil who doesn't want to live anymore. If the church can't respond to him them it really has lost its way."

Panorama: 'Sex Crimes and the Vatican', BBC1, tonight, 10.15pm

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