Trial date set for Argentine priests accused of abusing deaf children

Mendoza, Argentina, Jun 15, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Two priests accused of sexually abusing minors at a school for deaf children in Argentina will stand trial Aug. 5.

The priests and a former employee at the Antonio Provolo institute will face charges of the abuse of more than 20 children, the AP noted.

One of the priests involved is Fr. Nicola Corradi, who is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

Corradi was arrested in 2016 along with Fr. Horacio Corbacho and other employees in connection with the abuse allegations, and the school was closed down.

Sr. Kosako Kumiko, a religious sister with the school, was arrested in May 2017 for charges of facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students have also accused the sister of sexual abuse, though she has maintained her innocence.

Corradi, now 83, was first accused of abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, over the course of several decades.

After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

In 2014, Corradi was the subject of a letter sent to Pope Francis from victims of sexual abuse who were concerned about the priests ongoing ministry, despite the accusations against him. In 2015, the group handed a list of priests accused of abuse to the Pope in person, according to the Washington Post.

The group reportedly did not hear back from Pope Francis, but did hear from a Vatican official, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who wrote to the group in 2016 to tell them that he had informed the Italian bishops’ conference of their request for an investigation.

Later that year, Corradi, as well as Corbacho and another employee of the school, were arrested. However, according to a Washington Post report, it was civil authorities who decided to take action against Corradi and remove his access to children, while the Church in Argentina was not fully cooperative with the investigation, according to local officials.

“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute told the Washington Post in February.

Prosecutors in the case told the Washington Post that children at the school were “fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language.”

“They were the perfect victims,” Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case, told the Washington Post, because the students were typically from poor families and had communication limitations.

According to previous reports from the AP, pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested.

Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison if he is convicted by the Argentine court.

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