Monks accused of hiring alleged sexual abuse ring from diocesan charity

VATICAN CITY (RNA) – On a scorching day in August 2015, the mother of a girl entered the confessional of a small church near the Sicilian city of Catania, southern Italy. She believed that the leader of her lay Catholic group, a man known as the Archangel, had repeatedly raped her underage daughter and possibly others.

She trusted that the priest, Rev. Orazio Caputo, who had worked closely with the Archangel’s Catholic Cultural and Environmental Association (ACCA), would listen to her fears. In the most pious context of Catholic culture in Sicily, the mother believed she could speak freely with her usual confessor about her growing suspicions and guilt.

Two years later, the archangel Piero Alfio Capuana, 76, was taken into custody after a police investigation revealed that the authorities said there was credible evidence that he had sexually abused at least six underage girls.

Piero Alfio Capuana. Police photo

Italian prosecutors also brought charges against three women accused of helping Capuana convince the young girls, as well as against two men in the leadership of ACCA – and Caputo, who, according to investigators, preceded the hierarchy of the Catholic Church Suspicion warned that the alleged victim’s mother was housed and had shared with him during the confession.

The alleged victim’s mother was surprised to find out recently that Caputo has not only been re-admitted to her diocese, but has also been promoted to vice director of the local branch of Caritas, the Catholic Church’s worldwide charity.

“I have no words,” said the mother, who wanted to remain anonymous in order to protect the identity of her underage daughter. “When I found out that he had taken on this role at Caritas, I was hurt.

“This person who had the courage to reveal a confession in a delicate matter as sexual abuse should have been punished and not rewarded,” she told the Religion News Service on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The trial of the archangel and his accomplices began on September 15 last year and is still ongoing. But Caputo’s situation is more complicated. While the priest is accused by Italian prosecutors of supporting and facilitating a criminal conspiracy, the Catholic Church also accused him of violating trust in the sacrament of confession known as the confessional seal. Under canon law, such a violation can lead to excommunication.

In 2019, Rev. Giovanni Mammino, Vicar General of the Diocese of Acireale, one of two dioceses in the Archdiocese of Catania, announced that a canonical trial would be conducted to determine whether a violation of the sacrament of Confession had actually occurred in Caputo’s case.

But the canonical approach is a mystery. The alleged victims and their families said they were not kept informed of the progress despite their efforts to be part of the process.

Mammino told RNS on Tuesday that the canonical process had recently been completed and “found no evidence of breach of the denominational seal”. He also said that despite the positive outcome, Caputo received a disciplinary sanction prohibiting him from making confessions.

When asked about Caputo’s Caritas appointment, Mammino described Caputo’s role as “unofficial” and “marginal”, despite the fact that the diocese’s official website announced that he had been appointed Vice Director.

Mammino stated that Caputo, who “worked very hard” during the difficult months of the pandemic, “could not go without doing something”. He also claimed the post was not a sign of support for Caputo from the diocese, which had filed a complaint against Capuana in his civil case.

The Rev. Orazio Caputo, left. Photo via Instagram

In July 2020, Bishop Antonino Raspanti of Acireale made a statement thanking the priest for his availability and “service to the diocese” and “wishing Don Orazio Caputo the best of luck as he set out to deal with this delicate matter Office to monitor “.

Transcripts of tapped phone calls read by RNS indicate that Caputo has informed former ACCA President Salvatore Torrisi and a regional liaison of the group, Domenico Rotella, of the police investigation into the alleged abuse of the Archangel and indicates that the information was acquired during confession.

“Certain people have brought charges,” said Rotella, according to the protocol. “I had (Caputo) told myself the rest. … Take into account that all of this was reported during the confession. “

Both Torrisi and Rotella have since denied knowledge of alleged ill-treatment at ACCA headquarters and at Capuana’s home. They also denied prosecutors that Caputo shared information about the investigation.

However, in a conversation in 2017, Rotella said Caputo “cares a lot” by providing information about the police investigation because “his ministry does not allow him,” the transcript reads.

“I spoke to Orazio … Orazio Caputo … and he told me the problem, he told me so that he could tell me that he obviously gave me more information,” Rotella allegedly said in one another phone call. “I have to pretend he never told me this clearly, so I can never talk about it. I’ve never spoken to him before, have I? Because otherwise this poor guy, you understand, he’ll end up having a stomach, you see, no? “

Six years ago, Caputo was among those charged with defamation of Roman Curia officials to defend a now debilitated priest, Patrizio Poggi, against allegations that Poggi had sexually abused minors. Caputo was acquitted in a trial in Rome. Poggi was found guilty.

The mother of the archangel’s alleged victim, once a sincere Catholic, has since lost trust in religious institutions. Her efforts to be heard and informed about Caputo’s trial left her “disappointed,” she said. She has spent considerable sums of money paying expensive canon lawyers and is poorer too.

“This is a blow to an open wound,” she said. “I haven’t lost my faith, but I’ve lost my hope for a better church that is close to believers and neighbors.”

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