After all the things we’ve heard so far – the child pornography ring the Catholic Church ran in Pennsylvania, the fact that some priests didn’t know if raping a child was wrong, and a pastor saying that the Bible says it’s not rape if the child didn’t scream – it’s hard to imagine what could be worse for the Catholic Church.
And don’t get me wrong. The state of New York subpoenaed all of the dioceses in New York last month. So it’s likely going to get worse.
But the Daily Beast broke a story that, at least for now, tops them all in the contest of being the worst of the worst. According to their reporting, the Catholic Church oversaw a school for special needs children – children who are deaf or deaf and mute – where they were systematically groomed for sex by the priests using hand signals.
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In particular, the Daily Beast spoke with “Giuseppe”, who was surrendered to the Catholic Church as a child when his parents decided they were unable to care for or communicate with him. Giuseppe shared his horrifying account of what it was like to attend the church’s Antonio Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children.
When he was 11, a monk who worked at the institute as an educator started teaching “special secret signs” for things like masturbation, fellatio, penis, and anus. “I didn’t understand at first just why this man was teaching me these strange secret signs,” Giuseppe explained in an exclusive, and very emotional, interview in Rome. “Then one day it became very clear when one of the priests made the secret sign for fellatio when we were alone, which was followed by him pushing his erect penis into my mouth.”
From that point on, Giuseppe said through his interpreter—often using fast and somewhat violent sign language as tears ran down his face—priests and the brothers would give a sign to the young boys and then take them to special rooms Giuseppe says were used for “time out” punishments or as resting areas. He said that because everyone was deaf at the school except those who worked there, no one could hear the screams and cries of the young boys when the abuse took place. Giuseppe said that on several occasions he and others tried to write down what was happening, but because their letters and notes were given to the priests and brothers to be mailed out, they were likely intercepted.
Clearly they were intercepted. When you create something as horrible as a systematic method for grooming children for sex, you’re going to take steps to protect it.
“Of course we screamed and cried,” he said. “Sometimes you would see priests coming into the dormitory at night, or you would see friends with tears rolling down their faces and you knew exactly what had just happened. You didn’t need to hear to know.”
I worked for the Indiana Department of Child Services for over half a decade, and can anecdotally tell you that special needs children are by far more likely to be abused than those without special needs. They’re less likely to know that something is wrong, which means they’re less likely to report that something is wrong – if they’re able to communicate that something is wrong in the first place. Research also supports my opinion here.
And because of course he is, Pope Francis is involved. Or, to put it better, is involved but failed to do a damn thing. Because why would he?
Julieta Añazco was one of those victims at the Provolo Institute. She says she was first abused by Father Ricardo Giménez, who worked at the institute. He first attacked her when she was just seven years old, she says, when the two were in a tent being used as a confessional at a Catholic youth festival. The abuse went on for three years before her parents found out and filed a complaint. Giménez was then transferred by the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, under the direction of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.
In 2013, Añazco and 13 other victims sent a letter to the then-Pope Francis, which he proceeded to ignore.
That letter was never answered by Francis, but Añazco did receive proof of receipt. She is lobbying a court in Argentina to open a civil suit againstthe popefor overlooking complaints when he was the head of the archdiocese. The watchdog website Bishop Accountability outlines five cases that Pope Francis overlooked as cardinal. One concerns Father Julio Cesar Grassi.
The Catholic Church has been able to run the most efficient and longest-running child sexual abuse ring in the history of the world. No other organization in the history of history has outperformed their efficiency in grooming children for sexual abuse, sexually abusing children, lying about the sexual abuse, covering up the sexual abuse, or paying off the victims of sexual abuse.
And to add insult to injury, while the support for Francis himself is waning, the Catholic Church continues to enjoy support from 1.2 billion people.
Stories like this make me wish that hell was real. Because if hell was real, there would be a special place for priests like this who have done absolutely horrifying things to children – and got away with it seemingly scot-free.