Why this story matters:
The conflicting decisions involving Father Luciano Massaferro have reignited questions about how far the church's legal sovereignty should extend over issues of child safety.
Under Italian law, Massaferro's conviction makes him ineligible for public-sector jobs such as teaching and running for political office. But according to the Church, he is completely innocent and could soon be given a new parish assignment. The situation has been described as paradoxical and "Kafka-esque" by members of the Italian press.
But this is just the latest example of the Vatican's double talk and questionable commitment to ridding the church of pedophiles. In January, Pope Francis apologized for the “wounded many” victims of sex abuse by priests by defending a Chilean bishop accused of covering up decades of sexual abuse. But the pope continues to support the bishop, saying he is innocent of wrongdoing.
Catholics and non-Catholics alike must continue to put public pressure on the Church to believe survivors of clergy abuse and ensure that they are removed from service.
Details from the story:
- In 2012, Italy's highest court of appeals, the Court of Cassation, convicted Father Luciano Massaferro of molesting a 12-year-old altar girl.
- Massaferro, who maintains his innocence, served about 6 years in prison before being released early for good behavior in March 2016.
- In a separate legal proceeding, the ecclesiastical court in Genova found Massaferro not guilty of molesting of the girl and that he should be "completely reinstated" in his religious duties.
- Although Italy is a secular liberal democracy, the Catholic Church enjoys a special legal relationship governed by the Lateran Accords, the 1929 treaty that recognized the Vatican City as an independent state.
- The Roman Curia, the Vatican’s administrative branch, oversees a system of courts spread across the country that interprets and applies Catholic law, which includes a religious equivalent of secular criminal law.