EL PAÍS launched in 2018 an investigation of pedophilia in the Spanish Church and has an updated database with all known cases. If you know of any case that has not seen the light, you can write to: firstname.lastname@example.org. If it is a case in Latin America, the address is: email@example.com.
Natalia C. P., 49, enters the office of a parish in Vicálvaro, Madrid, and takes off her sunglasses in front of the priest, sitting at his desk: "Don't you remember me?" And he tells her his name. The priest, initials D. A. M. M. and 68 years old, shakes his head, does not know what to say. Before she entered, EL PAÍS has already explained that she accuses him of having abused her in her childhood and that she wanted to see him face to face to see if he dared to deny it. She just wants me to ask her for forgiveness. The priest says he can't because he says he hasn't done anything, he denies the accusations. So, after a tense and fruitless conversation, the woman leaves. She accuses him of being the priest who abused her when she was between 9 and 10 years old, between 1982 and 1983, in the parish of San Antonio de Padua de Las Heras, in Mendoza, Argentina. 40 years have passed, and he has finally found it, thanks to a research work by Cadena SER and EL PAÍS. He denounced the priest in the archbishopric of Madrid and in the Ombudsman. The diocese removed him the next day, last April, and opened an investigation, which is also in the hands of the Vatican dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"I went to First Communion catechesis on Saturday afternoons. She went alone, and she was the only one, because the others were accompanied by her parents. When finished, the priest would lead me to a small room next to the church, sit on his lap and touch my private parts. He would touch me and tell me to touch him. One day I came home and my underwear was stained red after the touching, and I threw it in the trash so my mother wouldn't find out. I wanted to escape from there, but I didn't know how, I didn't know what to do. After communion I never saw him again." In a long conversation with EL PAÍS, the priest confirms that he was in that parish at that time, but denies the facts. He attributes it, as a possible explanation, to an error of identification of person. Natalia is sure it's him. He has the photo of the day of his first communion and points to the priest. "I know his name because that is not forgotten," he concludes.
The priest D. A. M. M., removed from a parish of Vicálvaro after an accusation of abuse of minors by a woman, in an image in which he appears with the complainant as a child on the day of his first communion in 1983, in Mendoza, Argentina.
For Natalia it has not been easy to find this priest. When he dared to tell his mother, four years after his communion, she went to the parish to denounce him, but was told that the priest had died. Natalia didn't know until 2018 that she was actually still alive. The truth is that the priest left Argentina just after the date on which Natalia places the abuses, in 1983, and later his trail was lost. Sources in the diocese of Mendoza, who affirm that there are no complaints against him, assure that he went to study abroad – the priest specifies that he went to study in Salamanca, in Spain – but then left again and for years they even ignored his whereabouts. He passed through Spain and then ended two decades in Italy, where he changed his name, calling himself Don Vite. That's how he was known, in fact, in the parish of Vicálvaro.
The biggest question surrounding the case of this priest is how he has been changing his destiny and country, outside any control and outside the usual channels. It is because he became part of a priestly fraternity called the Ramón Pané Foundation, founded in 1994 by Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, one of the best known in the Latin American Church. He is dedicated to sending priests from the continent to reinforce parishes that need them in America and Europe. This is how it is registered in Madrid, sent by that foundation. EL PAÍS has reconstructed its trail through three Italian dioceses: that of Pescara, in the municipality of Bisenti, from 1999 to 2008; in Genoa, from 2008 to 2015, in Saint Ambrogio di Voltri; and in the diocese of Albano Laziale, near Rome, from 2015 to July 2022, in the parish of San Bonaventura di Anzio. From there he was sent to Madrid last summer. None of them contain complaints of abuse. In all of them he appears as sent by that foundation. The priest himself confirms that he belongs to the fraternity and that he depends on the archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), who is the one who has been changing his destiny all these years.
The accused priest, at the door of the parish of Vicálvaro where he has been until April, when he was removed after a complaint of abuse. Alvaro Garcia
However, in the Ramón Pané Foundation, which has a headquarters in Miami and another in the archbishopric of Tegucigalpa, nobody seems to know who is ultimately responsible for this priest and no clear answers are given. The executive president of the entity is a layman, also Argentine, Ricardo Grzona, who founded the entity with Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga. Respond in writing from Miami. He says he does not know this priest: "I have searched all our archives and I cannot find that name. Therefore, I confirm that he does not belong to our Lay Fraternity." Moreover, he maintains that there are no priests in his organization: "Our fraternity is a lay fraternity. At the moment we only have some lay volunteer members, who are usually catechists or teachers, sometimes in some parishes that we have collaborated, a priest tells us to include him, but he does not remain as a member of the fraternity, but of his diocese. "
Apart from the fact that there are two branches of the organization, a lay and a priestly, Grzona's statements are surprising, since there are priests of this foundation in several countries, including Spain. And they are even more striking in light of the information that, for its part, the archdiocese of Tegucigalpa provides: the accused priest appears in its records as one of the two responsible for the Ramón Pané Foundation, and the other is Ricardo Grzona himself, who says he does not know him. But in addition, the Honduran diocese clarifies after consulting the lists of its religious personnel: "This priest does not belong to the archdiocese of Tegucigalpa." He denies that this priest is incardinated in that bishopric, as all the European dioceses through which he has passed thought. There is a limbo of responsibilities. This newspaper has asked Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga for an assessment and explanations of the case, but his assistants indicate that this week he is traveling, although they have agreed to transmit the request.
A priest is usually in his diocese, except when he is sent to another country, in what is called mission Fidei Donum, a formula used to send priests of missions, but these are cases in which the bishop always knows where he is and remains responsible. With the accused cleric it has not been so. He was from the diocese of Mendoza, but in this archbishopric they assure that for years they have not known his whereabouts. "The transfer is not always done by the bishop. Sometimes a priest invokes family reasons, or vocational doubts, and goes to another place, where the bishop does not know him, "explain sources of the Argentine diocese. They only know that in 1984 he went to study abroad, returned to Mendoza in the late eighties or early nineties, but he was not more than a year and disappeared again, they believe in Spain and then in Italy. "We lose track of it at the documentary level. He did not make his situation clear," they continue. They cannot specify when he entered the priestly fraternity, in which some priests from Mendoza entered. "A priest in Europe lives 10 times better, here they earn a third of the minimum wage. Here the priests are really poor," they say. The situation was finally clarified years later, they explain in the diocese, when a new bishop arrived in Mendoza who reviewed the documentation of the diocese, noticed the strange position of this priest and ordered to regulate him, either with an excardination – transfer of diocese – to his new destination or by withdrawing him directly from the ministry. "In 2003-2004 he was gone, that's documented, but we don't know if he left before." Finally, according to data from the Argentine diocese, on July 1, 2009 he was excardinated from Mendoza and incardinated in Tegucigalpa. Where, however, they say it is not registered as such.
The last question to the president of the foundation, Ricardo Grzona, was how it is possible that he does not contact the diocese of Tegucigalpa to know the priests assigned to it who are part of the fraternity, and why this priest claims to be a member of the fraternity. Answer: "Unfortunately, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa changed and the cardinal is only honorary president. I don't know the new archbishop. I cannot tell you why a priest presents himself in the name of a lay fraternity. Great mystery to me."
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