Monday, March 11, 2013

Sex and the City - Pedophile Protectors Vote for a Pope

Sex and the city. The Vatican city, that is. The city of the religion where priests took a vow of celibacy and got away with raping children. With the papal conclave 48 hours away, Dan Rivers reported from CNN live on a case involving a cardinal who will be part of the conclave, Cardinal Calcagno. He protected a pedophile Father Geraudo who started raping an altar boy in 1981 at least once a week and continued for 5 years. That boy was Franceso Zanardi, who spoke to CNN. He said he was not the only victim from amongst his classmates but he is the only one who is determined to seek and find justice.

Zanardi grew up very conflicted and became addicted to heroin in his 20’s. It was only after he went to rehab and had counseling that he realized he took drugs because of the abuse. That’s when he decided to find out how Geraudo had been able to get away with raping him for so long. Zanardi’s fight for the truth has exposed a trail of protection that leads directly to then Cardinal Ratzinger – who subsequently became Pope Benedict XVI.

Zinardi discovered that in 1980 a letter sent from an archbishop to bishop Calcagno of  Savona clearly shows that the church was aware of Geraudo’s crimes more than 3 decades ago. In 1980 he was reported for abuse of minors, but he was simply moved from parish to parish. He even set up and ran a home for troubled children in a church rectory.

In 2002 Geraudo confessed that he was a pedophile and even that wasn’t enough for the church to throw him out. Then in 2003 bishop Domenico Calcagno wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger who was then the enforcer of church doctrine, asking for advice on what he should do about Geraudo.
 “As far as possible” Calcagno said he intended to avoid letting Geraudo have responsibilities that would bring him into contact with children. His letter was accompanied by a church dossier on Geraudo, and Calcagno said “nothing has been leaked to the papers, no complaints have been filed with the police”.

The church was clearly only concerned with its image and protecting its priests. The victims weren’t mentioned in any of the documents and of course no efforts were made to identify them and help them. Neither Ratzinger nor Calcagno made any moves to defrock Geraudo or investigate. Two years later Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2005 Geraudo was sent to a Catholic scout camp in Piedmont, where he abused another boy. He was convicted for this crime, but he only received a one year suspended sentence. It was only in 2010 that the church forced him to resign, even though he had admitted to being a pedophile 8 years earlier. When Bishop Calcagno had become Cardinal, he was accused of having protected the pedophile. The church’s response was “the accusations regarding Cardinal Domenico Calcagno when he was bishop of Savona in Italy were investigated by both the church and by the legal system, by the judge and the accusations were without foundation.”

Cardinal Calcagno, who is taking part in the conclave to elect the next pope, declined to comment. Francesco Zanardi took a petition to the Vatican demanding that Calcagno be disqualified from the papal conclave, but he was turned away by plain clothes police.  But Zanardi is not giving up. His case has been taken up by SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), a pressure group representing people abused by priests. But the vote takes place tomorrow. So that’s two Cardinals that the world knows protected pedophile priests. Calcagno and Mahony.

Neither of them is considered to be Pope material, but that they have a say makes a mockery of the whole process. That Ratzinger protected Geraudo if only by default, makes a mockery of the position of Pope.  It’s the victims who speak and the journalists who help them who are the real heroes of this story that seems to never end.  Francesco Zanardi represents the Italian abuse network Rette L’Abuso. He also reports for and has worked in collaboration with the Protect Your Children Foundation. Last year he went on a hunger strike in Rome to protest abuse by clergy.