30 May 2011

Italian priest in diocese of Cardinal assisting Pope on child protection reforms arrested on pedophilia and drug charges

TIME   -  May 19, 2011

Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope's Adviser

By Alessandra Pieracci and Giacomo Galeazzi / La Stampa / Worldcrunch

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.(Read "Vatican Gets Tough on Child Abuse but Not Tough Enough.)

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.

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.(Read "Controversial Study Links Catholic Abuse to '60s Culture and Church Hierarchy but Offers Few Solutions.")

"[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.

This article was found at:


As Italian bishops downplay extent of abuse and maintain right to secrecy, more priests charged with recent child sex crimes

Trial of priest charged with sex abuse of boys in Rome as recently as 2008 undermines Pope's promises to protect children

Italy finally begins to acknowledge rampant priest abuse, but pedophile bishop still on road to saint-hood

A selection of critical responses to the John Jay report on the causes of Catholic clergy sex crimes

US bishop's report on clergy abuse puts focus on sociological factors instead of church leaders who covered up crimes

Catholic theology explains why popes and priests dedicated to goodness could be so perverse and abusive

Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church

Retired Archbishop blames protective church hierarchy for clergy abuse scandal

Australian Archbishop says church culture responsible for deep-rooted child abuse crimes and cover-ups

Former Benedictine monk says church has not yet addressed child abuse crisis, most bishops still mired in obfuscation and deceit

Is the Catholic church in state of denial over clergy abuse, or is it honest and transparent?

Vatican's top Cardinal blames sex crimes scandals on homosexuality in speech in Santiago, where Chilean priest raped girls 

As one bishop blames Jews for current criticisms of Catholic church, another blames homosexuality for pedophile priests 

UK bishops denounce Cardinal for linking clergy sex crimes to homosexuality, Vatican out of touch with society

Mexican bishop adds internet porn, erotic TV and loose morals in society to list of excuses for why priests commit sex crimes

Belgium's Catholic primate faces demands to step down after controversial remarks on pedophile priests and AIDS

Clergy abuse survivor tells Delaware court that church officials blamed him for tempting pedophile priest

Irish priests say there is a difference between pedophile priests and those who commit "minor indiscretions" with a teenager

Brazilian bishops prepare anti-abuse guidelines, Archbishop says teens are "spontaneously homosexual" & "society is pedophile"

Bishop of Tenerife blames child abuse on the children

Philadelphia cardinal and bishops hid problem priests from clergy abuse review board, put church law before civil law

Credibility of US bishops' reformed child protection policies challenged by Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal

Inquiry finds US Catholic hierarchy still endangering children and fighting justice for clergy abuse survivors

Washington archbishop claims Catholic clergy abuse is all historic, abusive priests now dealt with appropriately, but church still fights victims

Hundreds of admitted or credibly accused pedophile priests who escaped justice are unsupervised by church or police

Dublin Archbishop admits frustration over failed effort to promote major reforms in Catholic Church

Leaked confidential letter reveals Vatican's intention to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities

Of course popes, cardinals and bishops covered up crimes against children, but can the Church be reformed while leaders are in denial?

Catholic diocese bankruptcies protect assets from abuse survivors but provide no relief for moral bankruptcy of church leaders

Milwaukee archbishop blames bankruptcy on individual pedophile priests, ignores systemic coverup by church leaders 


  1. 10 Spain priests charged in child sex abuse case after pope steps in

    By Roland Lloyd Parry, Anna Cuenca, AFP January 28, 2015

    Madrid (AFP) - A Spanish judge charged 10 Catholic priests over the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage altar boy, court papers showed Wednesday, in a case in which Pope Francis intervened.

    Their accuser, now aged 25, says he was raped and made to perform sex acts with priests at a villa with a swimming pool, according to a written ruling by the judge in the southern city of Granada.

    It is the latest in a series of paedophilia scandals involving members of the Catholic Church, and the biggest such legal case known so far in Spain.

    Judge Antonio Moreno formally accused 10 priests and two lay people of sexually abusing the boy or being complicit in such acts from 2004 to 2007.

    The victim alleges "continuous sexual abuse by a group of priests of the diocese of Granada, from 2004 when he was 14 to 2007 when he was 17."

    The young man said he became an altar boy at the age of seven at the church presided by the leader of the group and was later invited to houses run by the priests.

    The lead priest made the boy give him massages, which led to a series of acts of sexual abuse, the ruling said.

    The victim said the group's leader told him he had a promising career as a priest ahead of him and chided him for resisting, according to the ruling. It said the priest described himself as being like a father to the boy.

    The young man, identified in the ruling as a member of the Catholic institution Opus Dei, now suffers anxiety and is undergoing psychological treatment, it said.

    It is the most serious such case ever in Spain "in terms of the numbers of abusers and the system of abuse," said Jose Manuel Vidal, head of religious news website Religion Digital, which first reported the affair.

    "They set up a kind of sect within the church itself."

    - Pope steps in -

    The case was opened in early November and the judge had ordered investigations to be kept secret until he issued the ruling indicting the suspects. He has yet to rule whether some of the alleged deeds happened too long ago to be tried.

    Pope Francis revealed after the case was launched that he had ordered a Church investigation when the unidentified man wrote a letter telling him of the abuse.

    "I called the person and I told him, 'Go to the bishop tomorrow,' and then I wrote to the bishop and told him to start an investigation," Francis told reporters on November 25.

    The Argentine pontiff said the case cause him "very great pain, but the truth is the truth and we should not hide it."

    At least one other person now aged 44 has also accused one of the priests of abuse in the early 1990s.

    The Archdiocese of Granada said in mid-November that it had suspended a number of priests pending the court probe.

    The Archbishop of Granada Francisco Javier Martinez and several other priests prostrated themselves on the floor of the city's cathedral during a mass in November in a gesture of apology to victims of abuse.

    Pope Francis has taken a tough stance on clerical child abuse since taking over in 2013 from Benedict XVI.

    But a victims' support group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the pope should be tougher.

    "The judge in the case has made it clear that covering up child rape is a despicable crime," it said in a statement on Wednesday reacting to the Granada ruling.

    "Pope Francis should send the message that this behaviour is not going to be tolerated in his Church by immediately firing Granada's Archbishop."


  2. Seminarian Jailed on Child Sex Charges

    By BIANCA BRUNO, Courthouse News Service February 4, 2016

    SAN DIEGO (CN) - An Ohio seminary student who was arrested by federal authorities on suspicion of trying to buy Mexican children will remain behind bars until his arraignment later this month.

    U.S. District Judge Bernard Skomal heard from defendant Joel Alexander Wright, 23, who shuffled into the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit, spectacles and ankle shackles. Through his attorney Greg Murphy, Wright waived his right to a detention hearing until he is arraigned later this month.

    Wright was arrested by federal authorities on Jan. 29 at the San Diego International Airport on suspicion of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Alessandra Serano said the two violations Wright has been accused of carry a maximum sentence of 60 years to life in prison.

    Federal prosecutors say that while attending school to become a priest at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, Wright unwittingly corresponded with a federal agent posing as a Tijuana tour guide who would procure infants for Wright to have sex with.

    According to the complaint, Homeland Security received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last November about a person who placed an ad on Craigslist soliciting the adoption of infants from Mexico. The tipster told authorities he responded to the advertisement and that he first met Wright a year and a half earlier when he placed a similar ad seeking to adopt a child in Mexico.

    Wright originally traveled to Tijuana in July 2014, where he met the unnamed tipster he believed would find him a child to adopt. Wright paid the man an "adoption fee" and waited at a Tijuana hotel for the man to return with the child, but the man never came back, the 11-page criminal complaint says.

    The tipster began communicating with Wright again a year later in July 2015 after Wright posted an ad looking for a travel guide when he came to Tijuana for a medical appointment. Wright also hoped to find a woman to marry and a child to adopt, according to prosecutors.

    The complaint says that after communicating with the tipster, Wright eventually revealed his true intentions: to find young female infants to rape. In a message to the tipster on Nov. 25, 2015 Wright revealed he had experience assaulting infants stating, "I have not gone all the way before but I have made it very close in the past," the complaint says.

    An undercover agent took over the tipster's email account a week later and began communicating with Wright, who revealed increasingly specific and graphic crimes he wanted to commit against young infants.

    "I think one fun thing we could do at the same time with the infant baby is you could be in her mouth with your thing and I could be penetrating her so she would be getting it from both ways and she would suck you probably really hard," Wright wrote, according to prosecutors.

    continued below

  3. He also wrote in emails the agents intercepted that he wished to spank the children and make them upset.

    "With the four-year-old I think I will spank her a while to warm her up and make her a little angry so we can chase her around the place and I will penetrate her very hard which will be fun," Wright said in one email, according to prosecutors.

    "If she is angry at me she will be even more fun because she will probably try to get away and it is so much more fun when it is a bit of a struggle."

    On Dec. 10, 2015, the undercover agents bought a ticket at Wright's request for him to fly from Columbus to San Diego. From there he planned to go to Tijuana and believed he would have access to a one-year old and four-year-old, prosecutors say.

    Wright did not board the plane for San Diego the next day, however, and seemed to get cold feet. He sent an email requesting the "guide" never contact him again and revoking "any promises or relationships we may have entered into," the complaint says.

    On Dec. 28, 2015, the same tipster found another advertisement on the Craigslist Tijuana site from a person looking for a female tour guide.

    Two weeks later, the tipster created a new email account and responded to the ad claiming to be a female tour guide. A user with the name "Joel Wright" responded and asked, "Is there anything you won't do for me or help me with?" according to prosecutors.

    On Jan. 14, Wright emailed the tipster stating that he wanted to own or adopt a baby girl under the age of three.

    "I want to have intercourse with her after I own her but don't be telling people that," Wright wrote, prosecutors say. Wright believed he would have access to three children - ages one, two and three - and asked the tipster to videotape him raping them.

    He said he planned to bring children's Tylenol and candy to "relax" the infants, the complaint says.

    On Jan. 19, the undercover agents took over the tipster's email account again. A week later Wright told the "guide" he had purchased a plane ticket to come to San Diego on Jan. 29, prosecutors say.

    Wright was offered transportation upon arriving at San Diego and called who he thought was his guide shortly after 12:30 p.m. to pick him up. Authorities arrested him outside the baggage claim area at Lindbergh Field.

    The months-long undercover investigation and sting operation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations agents in San Diego.

    Interestingly, the complaint notes that the would-be priest used the pseudonym "Francis" in his second round of interactions with the agents. He has since been expelled from the seminary.

    Diagnosed with glaucoma as an infant, Wright said in a 2010 article in the Vermont governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities newsletter "Abilities" that he was called to the monastic life to help others find their purpose and show what is possible for those with disabilities. He is originally from Vermont.

    The Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, said in a statement that its bishop suspended Wright from his studies "immediately upon learning of the allegations."

    Father John Allen, Pontifical College Josephinum's vice president, called the accusations against Wright "shocking, sickening and horrifying" in a statement.

    "As a Roman Catholic institution we have a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of misconduct that would in any way cause harm to others, most especially to children and any vulnerable person," Allen said. "The seminary is fully prepared and eager to cooperate in every way, when asked by investigators, to help bring this matter to justice."

    Wright is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 25.