Pope Francis commissioned a four-book study in 2010 as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires attacking sexual abuse victims and defending a priest convicted of molesting a teenage boy.
Francis, who was then known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, asked a lawyer and jurist by the name of Marcelo Sancinetti to carry out a more than 2,600-page study encompassing four volumes for the Argentinian Episcopal Conference to discredit the alleged victims of Father Julio César Grassi.
The volumes described the victims as “false accusers” and claimed their accusations were just ways of projecting their own sexual desires on Grassi, who was convicted of sexually abusing a boy at his Happy Children Foundation — an organization dedicated to rescuing homeless children — and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Grassi was a national celebrity who established relationships with wealthy and powerful figures in Argentine society, while his victims were poor, teenage residents of his homeless shelters under the Happy Children Foundation (Fundación Felices los Niños) — which generated millions of dollars in donations each year.
Juan Pablo Gallego, who represented Grassi’s teen victims, told the local Spanish-language media outlet Infobae that as archbishop and head of the Argentinian Episcopal Conference, Francis commissioned the series titled “Studies on the Grassi Case” to reportedly influence judges on Argentina’s Supreme Court to maintain Grassi’s innocence.
“The books arrived to the judges of the [Supreme] Court, presumably delivered by supposed emissaries of Francis,” Gallego told Infobae. “What is certain is that we determined that they were received by every judge that had to decide on the Grassi case. They weren’t only delivered to the Supreme Court, where they are held, for example, by Ricardo Lorenzetti; they were also delivered to the judges of the provincial appeals court.”
“I am certain that the judges of the Supreme Court have these books and that they came to them in the name of the Church,” Gallego said.
The volumes were never released to the public, but the final book in the series published in 2013 had a passage stating who was behind the study, El Pais reported.
“With this [volume], these ‘Studies on the Grassi case’ are concluded, and the labor assigned by the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, in particular by Cardinal Bergoglio, then its president and today His Holiness Francis,” the text reportedly read on the first page.
People who defended the study claimed the volumes were solely intended for the bishops sitting on the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, but multiple news outlets confirmed that the volumes had been sent to the country’s Supreme Court.
Infobae confirmed in 2016 with sources in the Argentinian Supreme Court that court members had received the volumes.
Carlos Mahiques, one of the judges on the court, told the French television news program Cash Investigation in March 2017 that he personally received the four-volume study.
“You received this counter-inquiry?” the Cash Investigation reporter asked.
“Yes, I did,” responded Mahiques.
Mahiques added that the study Bergoglio commissioned was meant “to exert a subtle form of pressure on the judges” in Grassi’s favor.
“I think it’s partial in some areas, and extremely partial in others. It’s clearly in favor of Father Grassi,” Mahiques said. “They were trying to exert a subtle form of pressure on the judges.”
Even with these reports of sexual abuse in Francis’s diocese, the pope claimed in his 2010 book On Heaven and Earth that instances of sexual abuse by clergy members “never occurred in my diocese” and “in the diocese, it never happened to me.”
But despite Francis’s denial of any instances of sexual abuse taking place under his watch, many victims stepped forward and wrote letters to Francis while he was archbishop detailing the abuses they suffered.
Francis would not meet with these victims of sexual abuse within his archdiocese and did not even answer their letters. The pope has also refused to remove Grassi from the priesthood. Grassi was still listed as a practicing priest in the Diocese of Morón — the diocese under the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires — as of August 2017.
The Diocese of Morón, however, stated that it was not their responsibility to remove Grassi and that it was up to the Vatican to remove him from the priesthood.
Although a source “close to Francis” claimed the diocese is responsible for Grassi’s case, the diocese released a statement in March 2017 revealing that the Vatican ordered the Diocese of Morón to submit a report on Grassi’s case.
The Vatican, however, had not acted on the report — leaving Grassi a priest with all his privileges despite his status as a convicted sex offender.
One witness at Grassi’s trial told Cash Investigation that the sex abuser priest repeatedly said during the trial that Francis stood by him.
“I’ll never forget what Father Grassi kept repeating at his trial: “Bergoglio never let go of my hand.” Now, Bergoglio is Pope Francis, but he has never gone against Grassi’s words. So I’m certain that he never did let go of Grassi’s hand!”
Grassi reportedly used the same language in a 2009 interview with Infobae.
“[Bergoglio] never let go of my hand. He is at my side as always,” Grassi reportedly said.
Even as the Catholic Church is reeling from the sexual abuse scandals by its clergymen, Francis doubled down against those who accuse clergymen of sexual abuse during a homily Thursday morning, saying that those who accuse bishops of sexual abuse are like Satan, “the Great Accuser.”