April 29, 2019.
The Honorable Rogelio Francisco Emilio Pfirter,
Embassy of Argentina in Rome, Italy,
Piazza dell’Esquilino 2,
We are writing to you as a global network of survivors of clergy abuse, activists, and organizations on behalf of and in solidarity with the survivors of Argentina.
As you know, the bishops of Argentina are in Rome for the next three weeks for their ad limina meetings with Pope Francis. They will discuss the church in Argentina and the challenges they face in their respective dioceses. The bishops have stated publicly that they will ask their former colleague to return to his home country — something he has not done in his six years as pope.
As survivors, we join the bishops in that request. We ask you to publicly support our joint appeal, and to convey our desire directly to Pope Francis. The time is overdue for him to return home, join with survivors, and enact true “zero tolerance” for abusive clergy.
Victims of Argentine clergy are coming forward in increasing numbers. Their stories reveal ongoing sexual violence toward children by priests, and continued cover-up by Argentine bishops. Justice for victims has been too often ignored, denied, and sometimes directly obstructed by the church.
Zero tolerance for sex crimes and misconduct by priests is not even the written policy of Argentine bishops. Their leniency towards child molesters shows a shameful disregard for the human rights of children and the suffering of survivors — particularly shameful since it is a son of Argentina who commands the Chair of Saint Peter.
If zero tolerance is not embraced and enacted in Argentina, how can Pope Francis demand it of the rest of the world? The church in Argentina has a key role — perhaps the key role — in implementing the reforms the world is expecting of the Pope and his hierarchy.
In light of this, Ambassador Pfirter, when you convey our request to the Pope, please also urge him to take these decisive actions:
— Immediately direct Argentine bishops and religious superiors to enact true zero tolerance in policy and practice;
— Launch investigations of active Argentine bishops who have shielded predator priests. Among these: Archbishop Mario Cargnello of Salta, who is refusing to give prosecutors essential information about the crimes allegedly committed by priest Emilio Lamas; Archbishop Juan Puiggari of Paraná, who for years concealed allegations against now-convicted priests Justo José Ilarraz and Marcelino Moya; and Bishop Marcelo Cuenca of Alto Valle del Río Negro, protector of Father Luis Bergliaffa, found guilty of child sexual abuse by the Vatican;
— Amend the 1966 Concordat between the Holy See and Argentina so that bishops can no longer invoke it to withhold information about child sex crimes from civil authorities. We cite here not only Cargnello of Salta, but Bishop Alberto G. Bochatey OSA, the church official appointed by the Pope to investigate the grotesque crimes against deaf children in Mendoza.
Argentina is not simply another country on the ever-expanding global clergy abuse map. It is the home of Pope Francis. It is the church and culture in which he was raised as a child, a church whose priests and bishops nurtured, loved and supported him. It is the church that called him to the priesthood and to his ministry as pastor, Jesuit provincial, and archbishop of Buenos Aires. Other children of the Argentine church were not so fortunate as he was as a child. Many today are living in silence and shame. Theirs was a church that delivered them as children into the hands of trauma and abuse.
Pope Francis has an intimate and unsurpassable knowledge and experience of the church and hierarchy of Argentina. He knows what they must do to protect children and open a path to healing for survivors.
Argentine children are endangered by the Holy See’s mandated secrecy about child rape and sexual assaults by Argentine priests. We urge you as the Ambassador of Argentina to ensure that human rights abuses are not being perpetrated or enabled by the policies and practices of any foreign state against the citizens of Argentina, even if that state is the Holy See.
Argentina’s gift to the world was Pope Francis. His gift to Argentina and the world must be zero tolerance — in Argentina, and across the globe.
Peter Isely, ECA Founding Member
Tim Law, President ECA USA/ECA Board Member
Julieta Anazco, Founder Iglesia sin Abuso
+54 9 221 6743793 (Argentina)
Francesco Zanardi, ECA Founding Member
Tel: +393927030000 (Italy)
Simone Padovani, ECA Founding Member
Tel: +393921454211 (Italy)