ROME – On April 27, Tomás Antonio Gimeno took his two girls from his his ex-wife, promising to return them at 9:00 in the evening, after taking them for dinner. Fifty-one minutes after the agreed upon time, he sent a voice message to Beatriz Zimmermann, the girls’ mother, telling her that she would never see them again.
A frantic search for Olivia, 6, and Anna, 1, began in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands in Spain.
The body of Olivia was discovered at the bottom of the sea off the coast of the Canary Island of Tenerife last week. The search for Anna continues, but she’s presumed dead.
Their father is accused of drugging them, asphyxiating them, and putting them in the trunk of his car. He left his dog in with his own parents, and allegedly brought the girls’ bodies to his boat, where he tied the eldest to the anchor and threw it overboard some three miles off the coast.
The possibility that the man is still alive has not been ruled out, so an international arrest warrant was issued for him.
A local priest faces the possibility of being removed from ministry for saying that the mother of the girls was to blame for “stealing” the girls from their father and wanting to “give them to someone who didn’t father them.”
“Today I am with those two mothers who mourn the losses of their children: one lost Anna and Olivia; and the other lost Antonio [referring to Tomás Antonio Gimeno],” Father Fernando Báez Santana wrote on a Facebook post that has since then been deleted. “All three are children and all three have a mother. And it is not right to ignore the third one, the first victim of a society that knows about marital breakups, which are the ones that cause these and worse events.”
“There are dead people who are alive and continue to suffer the consequences of infidelity,” he wrote in a post that local authorities are asking the social network help recover as part of an investigation against the priest. “The second [victims] were two little angels who were not to blame. They [Zimmerman] wanted to change their father, their father being Antonio, and that is stealing children and giving them to someone who did not father them. It is a pity the press and media only think of the two girls and not of their father, all three being victims.”
Baez, who usually shares biblical readings on Facebook live, also said the following in a live broadcast on June 12: “If that marriage had been faithful, if that marriage had not been broken, those girls would be alive. All because of the lack of fidelity and for not following the old ways. Before, men put up with women even if they went crazy, women put up with husbands who were drunk and dirty … Not now, hence these consequences. You screw me over and I kill your children, which is what you want most, but we give reasons for this to happen.”
On Tuesday, Bishop José Mazuelos of the Canary Islands said that “all the determinations that have to be taken” against Fernando Báez for justifying male violence will be taken, following the Code of Canon Law. He had previously condemned the comments by the priest, but then upped the ante by confirming he would be penalized.
The bishop has acknowledged that, for the time being, the priest has been forbidden from making any further statements.
But what punishment might Baez face for stating that the mother “reaps what she sowed”?
In practice, it could range from a verbal or written reprimand to a ban from public ministry, including a from his assignment as a parish priest.
Mazuelos said blaming the crime on the mother is “the straw that has broken the camel’s back.”
“There is no reason or justification” to defend these acts, the bishop said, while stressing emphatically that “the Church will never justify a death of children over an infidelity.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma