A HIV positive Catholic priest who admitted to raping 30 girls between the ages of 5 and 10-years-old has been acquitted by Pope Francis.
The priest, Jose Garcia Ataulfo, was cleared of any wrong-doing and will not face criminal charges, despite the fact he knew he was infected with HIV when he raped the young girls.
The mother of one of the priest’s victims wrote a letter to Pope Francis asking to meet with him in Rome to discuss the case, but was shunned by the Vatican who declared that “the matter is closed”.
Ataulfo admitted to sexually assaulting well over two dozen children, many of whom were indigenous young girls from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico known for its large indigenous population. Due to the significant influence that the Catholic Church wields in Mexico, the priest won’t face any criminal charges for his crimes in areas populated by indigenous ethnic groups.
The report which first appeared on the Spanish-language news site Urgente24.com, says the priest was “absolved of any wrongdoing” by the Archdiocese of Mexico and the Vatican. According to Urgente24, only two out of the thirty rape victims have come forward to denounce the acquittal.
According to the Daily Mail, sexual abuse of minors by priests – and the subsequent cover-ups by bishops and other Church officials – have been widespread in many countries, including the United States.
The issue was thrust into the national spotlight in 2002 when the Boston Globe revealed the extent to which the local archdiocese shielded abusive priests from being exposed to the public even though it knew they posed a danger to young parishioners.
The Globe exposé, which detailed abuse cases that numbered in the thousands over a span of several decades, inspired other victims to come forward, leading to an avalanche of lawsuits and criminal prosecutions. Not only did the floodgates open in the US, but the Catholic Church was also forced to confront cases in other countries, including Mexico.
In 2004, the Vatican re-opened a prior investigation against Marcial Maciel, who was accused of sexually abusing minors as well as fathering six children by three different women.
Though the allegations spanned decades and the extent of his crimes was known to church officials, it was only in 2006 that the Vatican forced Maciel, one of its most powerful clergymen, to retire from active ministry.