Argentinian Priest, Defended by Bergoglio in 2006, Sentenced for Sexually Abusing a Minor
Under the leadership of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, once a bishop in Argentina and now Pope Francis, the country’s hierarchy rallied behind Fr. Julio Grassi, who ran a youth shelter until a television exposé revealed the priest’s exploitation of minors in 2002. Bergoglio said in a 2006 interview with Vientitrés magazine that “justice will determine” Grassi’s guilt or innocence, but the cleric had escaped being relieved of his priestly functions because his case was “different.” Furthermore, the cardinal said, “There is a media campaign against him,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Grassi was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse in 2009. The Argentine Bishops’ Conference responded by commissioning a legal study in defense of the priest, according to Argentina’s Diario Registrado. When the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires rejected Grassi’s appeal in September, he was remanded to a criminal court in Morón, which sentenced him to 15 years in prison. At that time the bishop’s office in the diocese of Morón recalled the data amassed by the legal study, which they said “cast doubts” on Grassi’s guilt—and thus, canonical proceedings to remove him from the priesthood would be delayed until a possible Supreme Court appeal was decided.