The BBC has uncovered how a culture of complicity and denial conceals the true scale of clerical sex abuse in Italy. One shocking case that we delved into exposes how abusers in the Church can escape justice. This account contains descriptions which readers may find upsetting.
We’ll call him “Mario”. He pulls back slightly as we shake hands, still clearly uncomfortable with physical contact. And at my first question – “How are you?” – which I hoped would ease him gently into conversation, he immediately breaks down.
“This interview is taking me back to it all,” he stutters, barely able to get the words out through his tears.
Mario has never spoken before to a journalist about what he calls his “sexual slavery” at the hands of his childhood priest.
Our journey will take us from Mario’s horrifying testimony, to confronting his abuser face-to-face – and finally to seeking answers from those who have allowed the priest to continue celebrating Mass to this day.
His is one of the countless stories of clerical sex abuse in Italy, which has never properly confronted the scourge. Despite having the highest number of priests of any country, and the seat of the Catholic Church in its backyard, Italy keeps no official statistics on the issue and there’s been no public inquiry.
In the shadow of the Vatican, Italy’s sins are hidden beneath a veil of darkness.