They denounce two bishops from Mendoza and one from La Rioja for covering up sexual abuse

Three bishops of Argentina along with other ecclesiastical authorities were denounced before the Vatican for covering up sexual abuse by priests, in what constitutes the first presentation of this type since Pope Francis reformed the Canonical Code, the victim’s lawyer reported today .

It is about Marcelo Colombo, archbishop of Mendoza, together with his assistant, Marcelo Mazzitelli, and the bishop of La Rioja, Dante Braida, who were denounced by Nicolás Bustos, in the cause known as Cristo Orante.

In addition to the three bishops, the complaint before the Vatican includes Ricardo Medina, judicial vicar of the Buenos Aires Interdiocesan Court, and priests Ricardo Poblete and Mario Panetta, of the Archdiocese of Mendoza.

In his brief, presented on June 1, the same day that the reform of the Canonical Code was announced, Bustos asked the Vatican to “investigate them and determine the possible responsibilities” in covering up the alleged abuses of which they were victim when he was a minor and was studying to become a monk at the Cristo Orante Monastery, in Tupungato, Mendoza.

The case became known in January 2019, when Bustos denounced Diego Roque and Oscar Portillo, two of the authorities of the monastery, located in the Uco Valley and closed by decision of the archbishopric after the scandal.

Now, the young man, who claimed to have been a victim of abuse for five years, asked the Vatican to “investigate for actions or omissions aimed at interfering or eluding the canonical, administrative and / or criminal investigation” by Portillo, and that Roque is under canonical investigation in the interdiocesan court of Buenos Aires.

The same presentation was made before the Apostolic Nunciature of Buenos Aires, the seat of the Vatican in the country.

It is that on June 1, Pope Francis presented a reform of the Code of Canon Law, the first and most profound in forty years, which aggravates the sanctions against abusive priests and defines pedophilia as “a crime against human dignity. “.

But in addition, it equates some cases of abuse of adults with the same seriousness as those committed against minors, in a measure that aims to prevent attacks within seminars.

Finally, the reform imposes “objective criteria in identifying the most appropriate penalty to apply in the specific case”, that is, it seeks to limit the discretion of bishops when investigating and punishing abuses.

“We understand that there was negligence on the part of the bishops in interfering or obstructing these types of investigations. Bergoglio boasts of being transparent when investigating abuses, well, we put it to the test, beyond which we maintain our skepticism “Carlos Lombardi, the victim’s lawyer and specialist in Canon Law, told Télam.

Among the evidence provided are the minutes of the interviews that the former Archbishop of Mendoza, Carlos María Franzini, had with both the victim and Portillo.

There, as stated in that documentation, Portillo acknowledges “having had inappropriate sexual affective behaviors that he has wanted to ‘whitewash’ with the community and Nicolás always opposed. I remind him that as he is the superior, he has the greatest responsibility and is marked the relationship forever. “

In another section, he added that he thanks “the openness and trust” to Portillo for his confession and invited him “to take all the time that is necessary to clarify this situation.”

Furthermore, although Bustos denounced a violation, the minutes of the meeting with Franzini only speak of “touching and kissing.”

Although what was being denounced was sexual abuse, Franzini, who died in 2017, resolved to “paternally admonish priest Oscar Portillo, exhorting him to take care of his priestly and monastic vocation with supernatural prudence and consistent conduct,” according to the presentation before the Vatican.

For this reason, in the brief delivered to the Holy See, the victim’s lawyer argued that “these serious irregularities are part of the abuse of power and manipulation of the defunct ecclesiastical authority against Mr. Bustos Norton and proves how the Archbishopric of Mendoza It is not the first time that he has manipulated and re-victimized victims of sexual abuse. “

In another section, Lombardi added that with the admonition that Portillo received from the Church, it is clear that “very serious events such as the reported sexual abuse were trivialized and that Bishop Franzini knew at all times that the denounced acts constituted crimes.”

The abuses would have been committed between 2009 and 2015. It was on June 17 of that last year that Bustos turned to Franzini to denounce what was happening at the seminar. In March of this year, almost six years after that meeting, the archbishopric of Mendoza decided to sanction Portillo and prohibited him for five years from “the physical or virtual exercise of the priestly ministry, which expressly includes presiding over Eucharistic celebrations or other sacramentals, with participation of the faithful, the exercise of the ministry of the word in any of its forms “.

However, he clarified that “it is not a cause for sexual abuse nor is it related to the trials that have been carried out since December 2018 by the Mendoza Justice and the Ecclesiastical Court of Buenos Aires, respectively.”

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