By Alessandra Pieracci and Giacomo Galeazzi / La Stampa / Worldcrunch
19 May 2011
Pope Benedict XVI
Alessandra Tarantino / AP
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.
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.
“[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.
Italy: Ex-trainee priest arrested in clerical abuse probe
20 May 2011
last update: May 20, 13:04
Genoa, 20 May (AKI) – Police were due Friday to question the alleged accomplice of a priest accused of sexually abusing young boys who was arrested late Thursday in the northern port city of Genoa.
Police nabbed 41-year-old Emanuele Alfano, a former trainee priest as he was boarding a cruise ship to take up a job in its casino.
Alfano allegedly paid a boy for sex and had sex with another boy and acted as a pimp for disgraced Genoa parish priest Riccardo Seppia, procuring him numerous boys for sex.
The Vatican suspended Seppia after police arrested him last week for suspected sexual violence against a 16-year-old altar boy and sex abuse of other youths, as well as supplying cocaine.
Investigators opted to arrest Seppia last Saturday following surveillance of his mobile phone and obscene text messages allegedly sent to teenage boys, including a 15-year-old with whom he had arranged a sexual encounter later that day.
Investigators believe Seppia abused “at least five” teenage boys in his parish.
Alfano was arrested after investigators intercepted a phone call made to Seppia in which the priest told him he had kissed the altar boy.
He and Seppia are being held in Marassi prison. Seppia has already been quizzed by police but it is not known what line of defence he is taking.
In an unusual move, the archbishop of Genoa, cardinal Angelo Bagnasco attended a mass last Saturday at Seppia’s church in the Sestri Ponente district, where he expressed his “shame” for Seppia’s alleged behaviour.
In another address on Thursday in Genoa, Bagnasco went further. Referring to Seppia solely as “our brother” he said that if the allegations against him proved to true “they disfigure the beauty of the soul, scandalise and wound the image of the Church.”
Bagnasco’s swift, hands-on reaction was a marked departure from the Vatican’s long-held habit of defending members of their ranks.
The clerical sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church in several countries has only recently emerged in Italy, where the Vatican is politically influential and citizens are often deferential towards priests.
Two priests have this year been jailed for sexual offences against children in Italy.
Arrested Italian priest confirms he is HIV positive
May 21, 2011, 11:34 GMT
Rome – An Italian priest accused of sexually abusing minors and supplying them with illegal drugs has admitted to prison doctors that he is HIV-positive, Italian media reported Saturday.
Father Riccardo Seppia was arrested last week. He is accused of abusing a 16-year-old boy and giving him cocaine. Investigators have since said Seppia, who regularly frequented discotheques, saunas and gyms, would frequently ask his drug dealers to provide him with young boys.
According to dailies La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, Seppia later confirmed a prosecutor’s report on his medical condition and has since asked staff at the Marassi prison in Genoa to be transferred to another prison because of the constant abuse he has been receiving from other prisoners.
The Vatican, which has already suspended Seppia from all priestly duties, has recently urged parishes to report sex crime suspects to civil authorities.
The Catholic Church has in the past been accused of not reacting strongly enough to allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Italy and elsewhere.