An Italian man who suffered what he claims was clerical sex abuse as a 14-year-old has secretly recorded his attacker, now a senior Sicilian church figure, appearing to admit the crimes in a chilling case that throws the spotlight on the wider issue of clerical paedophilia in Italy, which many observers say is still being swept under the carpet.
The victim, Teodoro Pulvirenti, 37, now a medical researcher in the US, decided to return to his home town of Acireale in Sicily and confront the alleged abuser, Don Carlo Chiarenza, who is now a Monsignor. Last September, armed with a hidden microphone, he taped the conversation in which the priest is heard admitting to having had a sexual relationship with the-then adolescent, who subsequently made several suicide attempts and had years of psychotherapy.
With Mr Pulvirenti breaking down in tears half-way through the conversation, Mr Chiarenza is said to have claimed that the "intimate sexual relationship" – in Mr Pulvirenti's words – that took place between them was a way of Mr Chiarenza "telling [Mr Pulvirenti] that I cared for you very much". He then appears to suggest that the adolescent was to blame for initiating some of the encounters.
Church authorities asked Mr Chiarenza, who rose to be Dean of Acireale's Basilica di San Sebastiano, to leave his clerical post when the Sicilian magazine S published the transcript in February. Because the alleged abuse took place more than 10 years ago, any prospective prosecution would be barred under Italy's statute of limitations.
At a press conference this week in Rome, Mr Pulvirenti said: "My case has been killed by the statute of limitations, but there are tens of others for whom justice can still follow its course. And this is why I chose to talk."
Robert Mickins, Rome correspondent for Catholic newspaper The Tablet, said that in Italy, "the Church's influence and powerful contacts and the media and have largely kept a lid on clerical abuse cases, unlike Anglo-Saxon countries."
Apart from a video slot on Corriere della Sera website, which has since been removed, national newspapers and television channels have noticeably shunned Mr Pulvireti's story.
A pair of Sicilian journalists with the local Rei TV station were even attacked by of worshippers last month while attempting to make a broadcast outside Mr Chiarenza's Church. The case follows news that the Dutch Government is to investigate claims that the Catholic Church in Holland had in the 1950s organised the surgical castration of men under the age of 21 in its care "to rid them of homosexuality."
Extract from tape
Teodoro Pulvirenti: Look, I actually felt dirty... I want so much to talk about all these things...
Don Carlo Chiarenza: But why are you worrying?
TP: No, I'm not... Honestly, I didn't know what sex was ... and then all of this happened between us... It was almost as if I lost a second father...
DCC: I cared for you very much. Don't portray me as a father figure ... you had an extraordinary family and you didn't need more... I followed your desire to want to be loved... without limits. Perhaps you don't remember but I hardly ever took the initiative... that is, I sensed you needed be held – but it was one time?
TP: Yes a couple of times.
DCC: I only remember one time...but there was no plan. I felt desire... there was a moment that you appeared to enjoy as well... it even seemed to do you good... It was a way of telling you I cared for you...