ROME – This week a public spat on social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, revealed that a Spanish priest has been barred by the Vatican from his online activities for trolling a victim of a Peru-based group currently under investigation.

In a May 7 post on X, Spanish Father Francisco Delgado, who lives in Virginia Dale, Colo., in the United States, announced that “By direct order of my Archbishop, I am forced to interrupt activity on all of my networks and suspend my participation in the media.”

A high-ranking source confirmed to Crux the archbishop received the request from the Holy See.

“This time I’m not doing it of my own free will. I have no choice but to defend myself against a slander that I hope one day to be able to give details about,” he said, insisting that despite the “persecution” against him, “I continue to maintain my purpose of being faithful to the Church of Christ and to its visible leader, who is Pope Francis.”

Delgado, one of six priests who regularly appear on the popular “La Sacristía de La Vendée” podcast, said he would be offering the suffering this situation has caused “for the conversion of those who harm the Church, from outside and from within. Long live Christ the King!”

In a response post on X the same day, a man named of José Enrique Escardó Steck, also known as JEES, said that “In the midst of so many stupid attacks by a t-shirt, there comes good news for me.”

Founder of the Peru Survivors Network and co-founder of the Brave Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean, Escardó is a former member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) and was the first to lodge a complaint against the group in 2000.

A lay group founded by Peruvian layman Luis Fernando Figari in the 1970s, the SCV for 10 years has been shrouded by scandals involving various allegations of abuse and accusations of financial corruption against Figari and other top-ranking members.

Scandals erupted in 2015, when Peruvian journalists Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz authored a blockbuster book titled, “Half Monks, Half Soldiers,” exposing scandals within the group.

Figari was accused of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse within the community, including sexual abuse of minors, and in 2017 was sanctioned by the Vatican and prohibited from having further contact with members of the group. He is currently living in exile in southern Italy.

Last summer Pope Francis sent his top abuse investigating team, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, to Lima to begin a formal inquiry into SCV and its various attempts at reform.

Escardó spoke with Scicluna and Bertomeu while the duo was in Lima conducting official interviews and inquiries.

In his May 7 post on X, Escardó said Delgado several months ago had “blocked me and then defamed and insulted me” on the social media platform through “various tweets and for several days for being a victim of the #Sodalicio.”

“The story reached the Vatican and they asked me for details of the case because the investigation into the Sodalitium is still open,” he said, saying Vatican officials “told me they were going to sanction him.”

Several days later, Escardó said, he listened to Delgado’s podcast, in which Delgado apparently said, “he wished Pope Bergoglio was dead.”

“Well, here are the consequences,” Escardó said, saying, “For the first time in history the Catholic Church sanctions a priest for trolling and I feel proud that it was thanks to me.”

He also accused Delgado of covering up the abuse of a fellow priest in Spain, saying, “I hope this is just the first measure and that the same thing happens with others who act the same.”

In addition to Delgado, Escardó said a similar sanction was also made against another priest “who insulted me,” Father Juan Razo, and that instead of making a public statement, Razo “first deleted his tweets and then quietly closed his account.”

In comments to Crux, Escardó said the online confrontation with Delgado began in January, when he replied to a post that Rezo had made criticizing the image of a Jesus “who seemed a bit homosexual” on a poster in Seville during Holy Week.

Escardó said he sarcastically replied that he would like the priests to spend as much time talking about how to obtain justice and reparation for victims of sexual abuse in the Church, saying Razo would one day have to face “this election of priorities” before God.

In response, he said, Razo replied with a quote from Proverbs saying, “’Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ You are so short-minded that you answer one thing with another. Don’t come and blame other people’s faults in my face. Only ignorant people use insults when they have no arguments.”

Things deteriorated from there, Escardó said, saying Razo continued to insult him and make vicious comments in his posts. Eventually, Escardó revealed that he was a victim of abuse on the part of the SCV and that the posts were revictimizing.

He told Crux that each of the priests had thousands of followers, so others joined and also began attacking him, and that Delgado was among those who did so, blocking him on X before opting “to tell lies about me, to defame me, to disparage the allegations against the Sodalicio” in several posts for the next three days.

Escardó gave Razo 24 hours to delete his posts, threatening to send the exchanges to the Vatican. When Razo did not comply, publishing more critical posts in response, Escardó reached out to the Vatican and, when asked, sent the relevant correspondence.

As the situation online unfolded, Escardó said he was contacted by someone claiming to be the victim of a priest in Spain, and that Delgado had helped to cover up the abuse.

Delgado declined a Crux request for comment on the situation, saying that by order of his archbishop, he was unable to make any statements to the media.

Though he said he has little hope that any real justice will be achieved through the Vatican’s investigation, Escardó said he remains firm in his desire to seek justice and reparation for victims of abuse in the church.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on X: @eliseannallen