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Former Vatican hospital officials indicted for illegal use of funds

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Vatican magistrates have formally indicted two former officers of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital on charges of illegally using funds to help finance the remodeling of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s apartment.

Giuseppe Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital until 2015, and Massimo Spina, the former treasurer, will be called to appear before Vatican judges beginning July 18, the Vatican press hall announced in a statement July 13. If the two men do not present themselves to the court on the opening trial date, they will be charged with contempt, the Vatican statement said.

Pope Francis blesses a sick child in Paul VI hall at the Vatican last year during a meeting with patients and workers of Rome's Bambino Gesu children's hospital. The Vatican announced on July 13 that two former officers of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital have been indicted on charges of illegally using funds(. CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis blesses a sick child in Paul VI hall at the Vatican last year during a meeting with patients and workers of Rome’s Bambino Gesu children’s hospital. The Vatican announced on July 13 that two former officers of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital have been indicted on charges of illegally using funds(. CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

After a more-than-yearlong Vatican investigation, Profiti, Spina and their lawyers were notified of the charges June 13 and had until July 11 to supply evidence for their defense.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the tribunal of Vatican City State, will not be part of the trial proceedings because he is a member of the Bambino Gesu hospital’s board of directors, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

According to the Vatican announcement, Profiti, 55, and Spina, 57, were being charged with illicit use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation to pay Gianantonio Bandera, an Italian contractor, to refurbish an apartment belonging to Vatican City State and used as the residence of Cardinal Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

It said Profiti and Spina were paid more than 420,000 euros for “completely non-institutional ends” by using the money to refurbish Vatican property in order “to benefit Gianantonio Bandera’s company.” It said the alleged crime committed in Vatican City State spanned from November 2013 to May 28, 2014, the time period that the contractor’s seven invoices were dated and paid for, according to news reports.

Profiti, who had been president of the hospital since 2008, resigned in January 2015, less than a year into a renewed three-year term, amid rumors of the alleged financing. The revelations emerged after Emiliano Fittipaldi, a journalist acquitted in a Vatican trial in 2016 for publishing allegedly stolen Vatican documents, published his findings in early 2016.

Based on Fittipaldi’s investigation and according to letters published by L’Espresso magazine March 31, 2016, Profiti wrote the cardinal in late 2013, allegedly offering to pay for the remodeling using the foundation money in exchange for being able to use the top floor of the cardinal’s residence for work-related gatherings.

In a letter of reply the next day, the cardinal allegedly accepted the proposal, adding that he would make sure the costs were taken care of by a “third party” so that the foundation would not have to pay.

Mariella Enoc, current hospital president, told reporters in late 2015, “Cardinal Bertone never directly received money (from the hospital’s foundation), but recognized that we suffered a loss and, therefore, assisted us with a donation of 150,000 euros.”

Cardinal Bertone repeatedly disputed news reports about the size of the apartment and its cost, and he insisted that he personally paid the Vatican, which owns the apartment, for the work done.

Cardinal Bertone was not under investigation.

Profiti had been sentenced with six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of bribes and kickbacks when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At the time, Profiti had been the head of the region of Liguria, where the cities are found in northern Italy. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

 

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Three Franciscans indicted in Pennsylvania sexual abuse case

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Three Franciscan priests were charged with conspiracy for endangering the welfare of children as well as for endangering the welfare of children in connection with a two-year investigation into sexual abuse in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Franciscan Fathers Giles A. Schinelli, Robert J. D’Aversa and Anthony M. Criscitelli were expected to return to Pennsylvania to answer the charges, said Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane at a news conference March 15 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus.

The men were indicted followed a grand jury investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by dozens of priests and other religious leaders in the diocese.

Kane said the charges stem from the time each of the men served as provincial superior of the Franciscan Brothers of the Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception based in Hollidaysburg, and their continued appointment of Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker to ministry positions where he worked with children.

Brother Baker is accused of abusing more than 80 children from Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown between 1992 and 2000, where he taught religion and worked as an athletic trainer, Kane said.

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, the order and the high school have reached settlements with the victims. Brother Baker committed suicide in January 2013 at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg.

The province issued a brief statement after the indictments were announced, saying it was “deeply saddened” by the news.

“With compassion for the victims and their families as well as for the Catholic family and the community at large, the province and its leadership have worked to cooperate with the Office of Attorney General throughout this investigation in the hope that this information could shed light on events that the province, too, struggles to understand,” the statement said.

“The province extends its most sincere apologies to the victims and to the communities who have been harmed. It invites the community to join in prayer for healing and understanding, and for all the priests and brothers who honor their vocations and the church,” it added.

Father Patrick Quinn, current provincial superior, was away from his office and unavailable for comment, a person who answered the phone at the friary said.

Kane said the three priests in their capacity continued to assign Brother Baker to the school in Johnstown despite knowing of allegations of abuse against him.

“They engaged in efforts to protect the image of the Franciscan priory,” she said.

After Brother Baker was removed from ministry at the high school, Kane said, he was assigned as vocations director for the province and continued to have contact with children.

Kane said none of the men reported the allegations to Johnstown police or any other law enforcement authority.

The attorney general added that the role of diocesan officials and local police was investigated and that evidence indicated neither organization was aware of the alleged abuse.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of holding those accountable” for not reporting incidents of sexual abuse, Kane said.

A report from the grand jury filed with the criminal complaints against each of the priests listed the names of six priests and one religious brother against which allegations of sexual abuse had been made. All but one of the men are deceased, according to the report.

Investigators also found correspondence between the order and the diocese indicating that diocesan officials knew of the accusations, but that “many friars remained in ministry after allegations were levied,” the report said.

The grand jury found that the province “had knowledge of at least eight” Franciscans who had sexual abuse allegations against them, but still transferred the men to assignments in Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, West Virginia and other locations in Pennsylvania, the report said.

Another set of allegations was made against Brother Baker from students at John F. Kennedy High School, a Catholic school in Warren, Ohio, where he taught religion, coached baseball and served as an athletic trainer from 1982 until 1992, the grand jury said. Settlements were reached in 2012 with 11 men who attended the school from 1986 to 1990, the report said.

The charges were the second shock within two weeks in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

A grand jury report released March 1 detailed hundreds of cases of abuse of children by at least 50 priests or other religious leaders over several decades and said diocesan leaders systematically concealed the alleged abuse to protect the church’s image.

Afterward, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown committed the Pennsylvania diocese to be transparent in its efforts related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and to make public the names of all priests found to have a credible allegation of abuse against them and the status of each man within the diocese.

The grand jury report commended Bishop Bartchak for cooperating with the state’s investigation and offered recommendations for the diocese to consider in its handling of abuse allegations, including keeping the needs of abuse victims foremost.

Kane said that more than 200 calls had been received on a hotline established to gather tips on alleged abuse since the grand jury report was released.

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