Pope Francis’ unshakeable belief in the power of mercy has been called into question after a previously-convicted pedophile priest struck again, around two years after the Pontiff reduced sanctions against child-abusing clergy, according to a report by AP.
The case of Rev. Mauro Inzoli, an Italian priest who received church clemency but was later convicted for abusing children, has turned the spotlight back on the sins of the Catholic Church. The report has revealed that Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him.
Inzoli was found guilty of abusing young boys by a 2012 Vatican investigation and was ordered to be defrocked.
He appealed his punishment and, in 2014, Pope Francis overruled the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and granted clemency, reducing the priest’s penalty to a lifetime of prayer.
He was also prohibited from celebrating Mass in public or being near children, was banished from his diocese and ordered to undergo five years of psychotherapy.
However, in June 2016, Inzoli was convicted by an Italian criminal court of sexually abusing five children between the ages of 12 and 16 and was sentenced to four years, nine months in prison.
Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, has defended Pope Francis’ proclivity towards mercy in such cases, stating that “even those who are guilty of heinous crimes,” can expect clemency from the Holy Father, according to AP.
“The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult,” Burke added.
Canon lawyers and church officials argue that keeping abusive priests under the authority of the church is the best way to protect children.
In sharp contrast, Pope Benedict XVI launched a major campaign to stamp out pedophilia in the Catholic church during his brief tenure as Pope between 2005 and 2013. At least 400 priests found guilty of sex crimes against children were defrocked.