Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope’s Adviser

Thursday, May. 19, 2011

Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope’s Adviser

By Alessandra Pieracci and Giacomo Galeazzi / La Stampa / Worldcrunch

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in the leading Italian daily La Stampa.

(GENOA) — The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues,” he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse. (Read “Vatican Gets Tough on Child Abuse but Not Tough Enough.)

Bagnasco said that when he met the Pope this weekend, he “asked for a particular blessing for my archdiocese” in light of the alleged crimes, adding that “like every father toward a son [feels] great pain in seeing a priest who is not faithful to his vocation.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi praised Bagnasco’s handling of the Sastri Ponente case, lauding its “timeliness and competence.” On Saturday, May 14, the Cardinal visited the Santo Spirito church, where Seppia was the parish priest.

According to investigators, Seppia told a friend — a former seminarian and barman who is currently under investigation — that the town’s malls were the best places to entice minors. In tapped phone conversations the two cursed and swore against God. The priest is charged with having attempted to kiss and touch an underage altar boy and of having exchanged cocaine for sexual intercourse with boys over 18. (See inside Benedict XVI’s daily life.)

Seppia’s defense lawyers are expected to argue that those conversations — monitored since Oct. 20, 2010 — were just words, sex games that were played by adults. It was just a game even when he claimed to have “kissed on the mouth” a 15-year-old altar boy, according to the defense.

On Monday, May 16, during formal questioning by Genoa’s investigating magistrate Annalisa Giacalone, Seppia chose not to respond. The magistrate decided to keep him in custody to avoid a risk of relapse or tampering with evidence. Defense attorney Paolo Bonanni said the defense wants to evaluate all the charges, reserving the right to respond to public prosecutor Stefano Puppo in the coming days.

Questioned by the investigators, the altar boy reportedly confirmed the attempted kiss. Another male minor who, according to the investigators, was stalked with messages and pressing invitations, will be questioned soon. Psychologists are helping Carabinieri police officers obtain testimony from the alleged victims. “The boys are ashamed to talk and to admit what happened,” says one of the investigators. The evidence amounts to at least 50 messages and phone calls. In the tapped phone conversations, the drug dealer contacted the boys and gave their phone numbers to the priest, who paid them with cocaine or 50 euros each time for sexual intercourse. (Read “Controversial Study Links Catholic Abuse to ’60s Culture and Church Hierarchy but Offers Few Solutions.”)

“[The investigators] made us listen to that man saying terrifying things about our children. Things so terrible that I cannot repeat them,” a father of one of the boys said.

Investigators are also examining three confiscated computers: the priest allegedly looked for partners via chat as well.

Seppia is currently being kept in a confinement cell in a Genoa prison. He met the jail’s priest and psychologist. “He has read the newspapers, and he is pained by his parishioners’ comments,” says his lawyer. The investigation is ongoing.


4 thoughts on “Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope’s Adviser

  1. The mind boggles. Reading the article, it almost feels like reading about an historical event that has taken place in the middle ages. I mean, how the heck is it possible that these events can still happen today in a country like Italy? Where is the legal system? Why is the RCC not taken to task as an organisation? How do they differ from the Taliban? And the big question: Why on earth do people still belong to this organisation?

    If ever their was proof of the evil that religion is capable of producing, then surely this must be it. The Pope and his chronies should be tried in The Hague for crimes agains humanity. End of story.


  2. I am convinced the RCC is more about power, money and self-image than following the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dostoevsky, a Catholic, must have seen this when he wrote in the chapter, “The Grand Inquisitor”, the following:

    “But we shall tell them [the people] that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name. We shall deceive them again, for we will not let Thee [Christ] come to us again. That deception will be our suffering, for we shall be forced to lie.”

    Perhaps I’m interpreting this incorrectly, but through the centuries the RCC has developed a character of self-righteousness and self-honour. The horror stories (read facts) of priests and nuns killing their own babies, the raping of young boys (and don’t for one moment forget that young girls were sexually abused by nuns as well), and then the cover-up of these horrendous crimes, even today, must result in this evil institution’s shut down. But it will not happen soon. Just the sight of hundreds of thousands (millions?) gathering to hear the old evil bastard, the pope, speak, is enough to make a rational person despair.


  3. One of the comments on the link Savage provided above, to me, sums it up beautifully:

    “I’m increasingly beginning to think that the claims that religion provides solace and comfort to people is actually highly questionable. It is rather like hitting a child and then hugging them and then hitting them again and repeating the process, and then claiming that religion provides solace and comfort. No, it’s not providing solace and comfort, it’s conditioning people into slavery.”


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