At a trial under way in Sicily, a 28-year-old Italian is seeking justice against a man he accuses of forcing him to perform sex acts before going on to become a priest.
The victim says the alleged abuse, committed more than a decade ago when he was a minor and the accused was a seminarian leading youth groups, included forced masturbation and oral sex in sacristies and schoolrooms. The accused denies the charges.
The victim went to the police only after the Church failed to act on his accusations, which he spelled out to two priests and at a meeting with a bishop involving his parents.
Victims’ groups say there are thousands of similar cases hidden in Church archives, and they are increasing pressure for an independent investigation in Italy to mirror recent moves in France and Germany.
Nine Italian groups have formed a consortium and on Tuesday will announce a campaign called “Beyond the Great Silence” and unveil a hashtag #ItalyChurchToo.
It aims to put public pressure on the Italian government to investigate past and present abuse in the Church or for the Church to commission an impartial investigation by outsiders.
The campaign is the latest move worldwide to force the Catholic Church to establish the full extent of sexual abuse by clergy that has cost it millions of dollars in compensation to victims.
“The state and the government have to take the initiative on this,” Francesco Zanardi, the head of one of the groups, Rete l’Abuso (The Abuse Network), which tracks clerical abuse in Italy, told Reuters.
“If the Church investigates itself, its first objective will be to protect itself,” said Zanardi, who is a victim of clergy sexual abuse.