06 December 2016, The Tablet

Argentine priests accused of abusing disabled children at school for the deaf face 50 years in prison

The priests are facing up to 50 years in prison if found guilty

Police in Argentina have arrested two Catholic priests and three other men accused of sexually assaulting and physically abusing at least 22 children at a school for youths with hearing disabilities.

Fr Nicola Corradi, 82, and Fr Horacio Corbacho, 55, are being held at a jail in Mendoza, Western Argentina, and are each facing up to 50 years in prison if found guilty.

A raid on the school found pornographic magazines, videos and about $34,000 (roughly £27,000) in Corradi's room, officials said.

"This is a really serious case with irreparable consequences, especially mental and spiritual, for people who are doubly vulnerable, not just because of their age, but also their lack of communication," said Mendoza Supreme Court prosecutor Alejandro Gulle.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Corradi had previously been accused of sexually abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Italy (pictured), a school for the deaf where hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers.

Those associated with the case have expressed anger that he wasn't sanctioned by the Vatican and allegedly went on to abuse children in Argentina.

The news came as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors launched an English-language version of its website, including local guidelines on preventing sexual abuse.

Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals identified the protection of children and young adults as one of the Church's priorities and suggested in December 2013 that he create a commission to advise him and assist dioceses and religious orders around the world in drawing up guidelines, handling accusations and ministering to victims and survivors.

In a statement to AP after Corradi's arrest, members of the Provolo association said they had flagged Corradi by name to the Verona archdiocese during hearings held between December 2010 and February 2011.

The group met with the Pope last year and asked for an independent commission to investigate Corradi. They provided the AP with the letter from the Vatican dated 5 February, 2016, in which the Vatican said it had forwarded the request to the Italian bishops' conference, saying it was up to them to investigate.

"As of now, nothing has happened," the group said in an email. "We have to ask ourselves: the pope, who was for many years the primate of the Argentine church, did he know nothing about clerical abuse in his country?"

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99