Italian clerical sex abuse victims gather for first time

 

ITALIAN VICTIMS of clerical sex abuse will meet today in Verona, northern Italy, for a gathering billed by the organisers as the first of its kind in Italy.

Called “ Noi Vittime Dei Preti Pedofoli” (We Victims of Paedophile Priests), the meeting will provide an opportunity for sex abuse victims and their families to confront their traumatic experiences together.

Among the 350 victims will be 120 former inmates of the Antonio Provolo Institute, a Verona-based home for the deaf and mute.

In a case similar to that involving Fr Larry Murphy in the diocese of Milwaukee earlier this year, the Provolo Institute made national headlines in Italy in January last year when 67 former inmates, male and female, issued a detailed accusation recounting 30 years of sexual and physical abuse by the priests of the Company of Mary order, who ran the institute.

In March of this year the institute featured in a current affairs programme on state broadcaster RAI, in which three former pupils recounted a series of harrowing tales of sexual, psychological and physical abuse.

Given that the abuse in question took place between the 1950s and the 1980s, the crimes in question have long since fallen under the statute of limitations.

However, last February the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith acknowledged an inquiry would be “opportune”. And in July the bishop of Verona, Msgr Giuseppe Zenti, met the Provolo victims’ association, agreeing to collaborate during a forthcoming Curia investigation into the institute.

Members of the La Colpa group, which organised today’s meeting, claim they have done so against a background of national media indifference and of local obstruction and/or embarrassment. La Colpa’s experience mirrors that of other Italian anti-paedophilia lobbies, such as La Caramella Buona, which have long complained about scarce attention from national media for the whole paedophilia problem, clerical or otherwise.

Today’s meeting will have a reserved, intimate aspect to it, so no public demonstration is planned. The organisers say they will take part in a public protest next month at the Vatican. “Reformation Day”, organised by the US sex abuse victims’ group, Survivors Voice, has invited people to join them in Rome and say “Enough”. Bernie McDaid of Survivors Voice, himself a victim, said: “I’m going to fill St Peter’s Square with victim survivors, with their loved ones and with priests of a good heart who want to stand next to us . . . for a day of healing and empowerment.”

In April La Caramella Buona accused the church of systematically covering up recent clerical sex abuse offences in Italy.