Pope Francis has punished a pedophile priest, who was caught molesting young boys, by offering him a generous retirement package and urging him to lead “a life of prayer and humble discretion”.
Due to the Catholic Church’s internal prosecution protocols, the 67-year-old priest Mauro Inzoli escaped serving prison time, despite being found guilty of raping 8 children.
The news comes days after Pope Francis shocked the world by publicly defending the Vatican’s third most senior cleric, Cardinal George Pell, who was also arrested for multiple cases of child abuse, leading to claims the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal runs much deeper than previously expected.
Inzoli, who was dubbed Don Mercedes because of his love of luxury cars, was originally defrocked by predecessor Pope Benedict in 2012 for child abuse, but liberal Pope Francis overturned this decision in 2014, urging the priest to be “more discrete” in future.
NCR reports: On June 28, the priest’s diocese of Crema in northern Italy released a statement saying the pope had made a “definitive ruling” that Inzoli, also known as Don Mauro, should be retired from clerical duties.
Bishop Daniele Gianotti of Crema said the Vatican body responsible for church doctrine informed him of the pope’s decision, which Gianotti described as “the worst punishment” to be imposed on a priest.
“We cannot assume that the pope made such a serious decision without carefully examining all the elements in front of God, before making a choice for the good of the church and Don Mauro,” said Gianotti on the diocese website.
Inzoli was found guilty last year by an Italian court of eight counts of sexual abuse of children aged 12 to 16.He reportedly paid $28,000 in compensation to five victims he molested between 2004 and 2008.
Gianotti said it had been “very painful” for him to communicate the Pope’s decision to Inzoli and urged the faithful to pray for the priest’s victims.
Since Francis’ election in 2013, he has claimed to have adopted a hard line on pedophilia in the Catholic Church and urged bishops around the world to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to clerical sex abuse.
But victims’ groups have often argued he has not done enough to hold perpetrators to account or the bishops who tolerated their behavior.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI first moved to defrock Inzoli but Francis decided to give him another chance before making his latest definitive ruling for something the pope has described as “a sin that shames us.“