In this Sept. 9, 2013 photo, Rev. Julio Grassi stands in a courtroom, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina's Supreme Court in March 2017 upheld the conviction and 15-year prison sentence against Grassi, a celebrity priest who ran homes for street children across Argentina. (Credit: Sol Vazquez/AP.)
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Here are some key points from a church counter-inquiry into the legal case against a famous Argentine priest accused of sexual abuse. The four-volume study was commissioned by Argentina’s bishops’ conference, then led by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, before he was named Pope Francis. The study concluded that despite being convicted of abusing one boy, Father Julio Grassi was innocent, that the complainants were lying and that the case never should have gone to trial.
Argentina’s Supreme Court upheld Grassi’s guilty verdict and 15-year sentence in March 2017. The study was obtained by The Associated Press.
Grassi was found guilty in 2009 of aggravated sexual assault and corruption of minors in the case of “Gabriel.” He was acquitted of abuse in the case of two other accusers.
The lawyer who oversaw the church study, Marcelo Sancinetti, wrote in the epilogue that “the falsity of each one of the accusations (against Grassi) is objectively verifiable,”
The study said that Gabriel tried to withdraw his accusation in the courts and then tried to extort Grassi by visiting him and offering him “help in exchange for help,” before the accusation was made public on a TV news program in 2002.
Grassi filed a complaint alleging extortion, but a court threw out the case in 2003 for lack of evidence, long before criminal action against Grassi began.
The study argued that the Catholic Church’s system of canon law doesn’t have to conform to the findings of secular courts.
“The spiritual decisions of the church cannot remain subject to the decisions of the organs of each state, because that would be equivalent to losing its own authority.”
The study says the trials and sentences of church figures “based exclusively on the word of a person who calls himself a victim of sexual abuse” are comparable “to the trials for witchcraft of the Middle Ages.”
Commissioned by the pope
Sancinetti said Francis was responsible for commissioning the report.
“With this, these ‘Studies on the Grassi Case’ conclude, and with it the work commissioned in 2010 by the Argentine Episcopal Conference and in particular by its then-President Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today His Holiness Pope Francis.”