Priest in Rome jailed for 15 years for abuse

 

IN WHAT may prove to be a landmark judgment, a Rome court on Thursday imposed a 15-year prison sentence on Don Ruggero Conti, a Rome-based priest convicted of having abused seven boys in his Selva Candida parish near the capital.

Via Boston, then Dublin then Munich and now the Roman ring road, the scourge of clerical sex abuse appears to move ever closer to the Holy See itself.

Lawyers for Don Ruggero confirmed they will appeal Thursday’s verdict, while Don Ruggero remains free until a definitive “third level” of judgment has been passed against him. After the court verdict, he returned to the Roman old people’s home where he has lived for the last two years.

In an interview with The Irish Timesyesterday, Roberto Mirabile, president of anti-paedophile advocacy group La Caramella Buona which legally assisted Don Ruggero’s victims, accused the Holy See and the Italian Catholic Church of adopting an attitude of omertà (silence) and of “not wanting to know” with regard to cases of clerical sex abuse in Italy.

Mr Mirabile recalled how La Caramella Buona had taken details of the accusations against Don Ruggero to the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Msgr Charles Scicluna, in July 2007.

The Vatican official, however, said he had no information about the priest, inviting La Caramella Buona to continue the legal action itself. Don Ruggero was arrested almost a year later, in June 2008, but police surveillance showed he continued to abuse minors until March 2008 – nine months after the Vatican was alerted.

Mr Mirabile argues that had a senior Vatican figure intervened immediately, other crimes of sexual abuse of minors might have been avoided.

Msgr Scicluna told Spanish daily El Paisthat La Caramella Buona was not able to provide full documentation, including “signed statements”.

Mr Mirabile yesterday rejected that assessment. He said his association would now try to bring a case against Don Ruggero’s bishop, Gino Reali, accusing him of aiding and abetting the crimes. Vatican commentators suggest it will be difficult to have Bishop Reali charged, given the deferential attitude of the Italian state to the church.