ROME – Just a few weeks before bishops from around the world convene in Rome to discuss the clerical sexual abuse crisis, an Italian victim peacefully protesting in front of the Vatican Feb. 4 was escorted away by police officers.
“Police agents escorted him to the station after he handcuffed himself to a pole,” Carlo Grezio, the victim’s lawyer, told local reporters.
“He was treated with regard and respect. Some agents know his story and expressed solidarity, but regardless, a formal charge will be made against him for wasting police time,” he added.
Arturo Borrelli, 40, claims to have been sexually abused by Father Silverio Mura, who was his religion teacher, about thirty years ago in the peripheries of Naples, Italy.
“I ask for justice and that all victims have justice because it’s essential to heal,” Borrellli told Crux in a phone interview Feb.4. “I will continue my fight until the end.”
The victim said he had informed the Vatican’s Secretary of State that he was coming to Rome to denounce his abuse. He claims that when he arrived Monday morning at the St. Anna entrance of the Vatican, about twenty police officers and journalists were awaiting him.
“The police officers took me to get a coffee, they hugged me, they were moved,” Borrelli said. “I have had help from everyone – journalists, police officers, normal people – but not from the Church.”
“I was looking for the Church’s help, because I believed in it a lot, but for them I am just an enemy and a nuisance,” he added.
Borrelli has asked for compensation from the Archdiocese of Naples, led by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, for publishing an official document in 2017 including his name eight times after he had anonymously spoken with media outlets about his abuse.
“Cardinal Sepe ruined my life, he made me lose my job,” he said, adding that he also holds Pope Francis personally accountable because he claims the pontiff is aware of his situation and did not act.
Borrelli met Francis in July 2018, when he said he had the chance to tell the pontiff about his abuse. Francis, Borrelli claims, promised to begin a canonical trial against his abuser and help him find a job.
To date, Borrelli remains unemployed. Meanwhile, according to reports by an activist group, his abuser is still practicing as a religion teacher, in close proximity to children, under the false name of Father Saverio Aversano in Perugia in central Italy.
“It’s scandalous that a person must reduce himself to this situation in order to have justice,” said Francesco Zanardi, a clerical sexual abuse survivor and president of “Rete L’abuso”, in an interview with Crux Feb. 4.
Rete L’abuso is the only network in Italy for clerical sexual abuse victims and counts Borrelli among its associates. The association works in partnership with the global association Ending Clergy Abuse.
“The pope has said a lot of things,” Zanardi added, “Borrelli is only asking for what the Vatican has promised.”
In an effort to address the abuse crisis, Francis has called heads of bishops’ conferences to the Vatican Feb. 21-24 to discuss the issue and listen to victims. Bishops were asked to prepare for the meeting by encountering victims and creating guidelines, if they haven’t done so already, on how to properly address sexual abuse in the Church.
During his flight back from a papal visit to Panama for World Youth Day, Francis invited people to “deflate expectations” regarding the summit. Borrelli told Crux that he does not expect much to come out of the event.
“I don’t believe in anything anymore,” he said. “I am a believer and I pray but I cannot attend Mass anymore, even though I believe that there is still a lot of good in the Church.”
Borrelli’s expectations for the summit do not reflect his faith in the pontiff. “Pope Francis has heart,” he said, “but if he does nothing, I would be very hurt.”
“It would only take a bit of love.”