The Catholic Church may as well now stop pretending that sexual abuse of children by clergy has not been widespread around the world and supported by the highest levels of its hierarchy after damning new claims in a scandal engulfing three continents and Pope Francis’s home country of Argentina.
The revelations come following the arrest of a Japanese nun accused of helping a notorious Italian alleged paedophile priest, Father Nicola Corradi, as well as local clergy, rape dozens of deaf and mute children in Argentina’s north-western region of Mendoza for a decade or more.
The scandal has shocked the locals in the area better known across the globe for its wine making prowess and its famous Malbec variety of grapes.
Kumiko Kosaka – dubbed the ‘bad nun’ by her victims – was arrested in early May after more than a month on the run from authorities in Argentina. Born in Japan, Ms Kosaka had moved to the South American country with her family in 1977. She became a nun and took the habit in 2000, according to various reports.
Investigators have said Ms Kosaka, 42, lived at the Antonio Provolo Institute for the hearing impaired between 2004-2012 – the church-run school in Lujan de Cuyo that is now the centre of sickening claims of long-term child abuse.
Ms Kosaka’s role in the alleged abuse was revealed when a 17-year-old former student told investigators that when she was five-years-old the nun forced her to wear diapers to cover up a haemorrhage following an alleged rape by 55-year-old local priest, Horacio Corbacho.
Other victims have since made claims that Ms Kosaka was also involved in the abuse of children and took part in some of the assaults alongside the priests. Authorities believe there were at least 22 victims but there could be scores more.
At a court hearing this month where she was dressed in a bulletproof vest over her nun’s habit, Ms Kosaka denied all the claims of wrongdoing.
“I am innocent,” the nun said.
The allegations first came to light late last year when one of the deaf victims spoke to a local politician through an interpreter about their experiences at the school.
“It was the first way so that other witnesses and victims could then come forward and denounce what was happening,” politician, Daniela Garcia, told reporters at the time.
A police raid on the school last December uncovered pornographic magazines and videos as well as $34,000 in cash in Father Corradi’s room.
It led to the arrest of the 82-year-old Italian priest as well as his colleague, Father Corbacho, and three other men – Jorge Bordon, Jose Luis Ojeda and Armando Gomez – who work at the school.
“They always said it was a game: ‘Let’s go play, let’s go play’ and they would take us to the girls’ bathroom,” one of the accusers has claimed.
The accused, including Ms Kosaka, are all looking at stretches of 10 to 50 years in prison if found guilty.
But it’s the link between Father Corradi and the Vatican, and Pope Francis himself, that suggests guilt over the crimes may be shared by the very top of the Catholic Church.
For it’s not the first time Father Corradi has been involved in numerous allegations of child rape and abuse. The priest was also one of the central figures in an abuse scandal involving hundreds of victims at the Provolo Institute’s school for the deaf in Verona, in Father Corradi’s native Italy. It is believed two dozen priests and religious brethren were involved in the abuse of disabled students for decades. Only a few priests were ever sanctioned by the Vatican.
In 2013, the association for Provolo victims of the abuse in Italy wrote to Pope Francis calling for assistance after stating they had received no support or solidarity from the church despite the Vatican’s own findings in 2012 that the victims had been abused by church officials.
Father Corradi’s name had been flagged as a likely abuser when victims met with the Verona archdiocese in late 2010 and early 2011.
Furthermore, only last year victims from the Verona school had a personal audience with Pope Francis himself where they called on the pontiff to appoint an independent commission to investigate.
“As of now, nothing has happened,” the Provolo victim’s group said in an email to the Catholic Herald. “We have to ask ourselves: the Pope, who was for many years the primate of the Argentine church, did he know nothing about clerical abuse in his country?”
Much like in other well-publicised cases in Australia, Ireland, the United States, Belgium, and elsewhere, it seems that rather than taking action against clergy accused of sexual assault, Father Corradi was simply ‘moved on’ to continue his abuse elsewhere. But instead of moving him to the next town or another state, the Vatican saw fit to help move the accused paedophile priest a continent away to escape the glare of infamy and to continue his plague of abuse on more innocent children half-the-world away.
“This is a really serious case with irreparable consequences, especially mental and spiritual, for people who are doubly vulnerable, not just because of their age, but also their lack of communication,” Mendoza Supreme Court prosecutor Alejandro Gulle said.
ARGENTINIAN NEWS COVERS ARREST OF NUN (FOOTAGE: MDZNEWS)