Pope Francis launches probe into ‘priests who posed naked online and got tattoos’
Investigation of diocese of Albenga-Imperia for alleged sexual harassment of parishioners and involvement in pornography
Pope Francis has launched an investigation into a Catholic diocese in Italy where priests have posted naked photos of themselves on gay websites, stolen money from church coffers and sexually harassed parishioners, according to Italian media.
The Pope has despatched a special envoy to the Albenga-Imperia diocese, in northern Italy, which has hosted a string of “playboy priests” moon-lighting as barmen, stealing parish funds and getting tattooed.
Led by Bishop Mario Oliveri (70), Albenga-Imperia has been described as “most gossiped about diocese in Italy”. While the bishop is not accused of any wrong-doing himself, the recruitment standards have been strongly criticised - with priests with very chequered pasts appearing in the diocese.
Some of the scandals which have enveloped the diocese include a priest who was found guilty of running an under-age prostitution ring and others who posted nude photos of themselves on Facebook and gay websites.
Other priests associated with the diocese have been accused of openly having gay relationships, stealing Communion money and sexually harassing mass-goers.
The scandals hit the headlines in Italy last month after Luisa Bonello, a doctor who lives in the diocese, committed suicide. She had written to the Pope last February to express her horror at what was going on in the diocese.
The Bishop hasn’t helped his case in the media, however. When he was asked about the scandals enveloping his diocese said: : “I don’t want to talk about it. This is not the right time.”
The Vatican has also remained tight-lipped on the investigation.
Since being elected in March 2013, Pope Francis has shown that he has little patience for senior figures within the Church who transgress. He removed the ‘Bishop of Bling Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, after he had spent €31 million of Church funds on his own residence in Limburg.