ROME (RNS) The Catholic Church in Italy is facing an embarrassing scandal after the arrest of a priest accused of demanding sexual favors from immigrants seeking political asylum in Sicily.

Police arrested Sergio Librizzi for allegedly abusing refugees under his care.

Police arrested Sergio Librizzi on allegations that he abused refugees under his care. RNS photo courtesy Audrey Vitale, via Redazione

The Rev. Sergio Librizzi, who was also the director of the Catholic charity Caritas in the Sicilian city of Trapani, was arrested at his parish on Tuesday (June 24) as he was preparing for Mass.

Prosecutors charge that Librizzi sought sexual favors from newly arrived migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa in exchange for help with residency visas, as well as from the poor who sought help from the charity.

The priest’s arrest is particularly embarrassing for the church given Pope Francis’ strong stand in support of the immigrants flooding the area. Soon after his election last year, Francis’ first pastoral visit outside Rome was to the island of Lampedusa, near Sicily, where he called for greater solidarity and an end to the “global indifference” over refugees.

There has been a surge in refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in Syria, Iraq and other countries. Last month, the Italian government said the number of refugees and other migrants reaching its shores had risen to more than 39,000 in the first half of 2014.

Pietro Maria Fragnelli is the bishop of Trapani.

Pietro Maria Fragnelli is the bishop of Trapani. RNS photo courtesy Emanuele Bellini, via the Diocese of Trapani

After Librizzi’s arrest, Bishop Pietro Maria Fragnelli suspended Librizzi and expressed his “shock and dismay” at the priest’s alleged wrongdoing.

“We express our firm condemnation of serious and reprehensible behavior, unacceptable not only because it may be a crime but because it offends the dignity of human beings and seriously damages the dignity of priestly service,” Fragnelli said in a statement.

“We also express our sympathy and Christian solidarity for the victims of such behavior: We know that the Christian community is with them and pray that God will soothe their wounds.”

Librizzi is accused of at least 10 episodes of sexual violence against immigrants since 2009, and he also faces charges of embezzlement after the alleged discovery of 10,000 euros ($13,600 ) inside his church. Investigators say they plan to rely on witnesses and wiretaps in their case against him.

“The sexual crimes relate to a number of subjects, both underage and adults, all non-EU citizens with whom the priest was in contact through his position within Caritas,” prosecutor Marcello Viola told the media. “He forced young people through sexual favors, through pressure, using his senior role.”

KRE/MG END McKENNA

 

26 Comments

  1. The Great God Pan

    We keep hearing that religions inspire their followers to behave morally, that we would be in real trouble if religions weren’t here to make people behave themselves and be charitable.

    And then we keep hearing about people who administer religion and use their supposedly God-given authority to sexually exploit people.

    And then we hear that these are the actions of individuals, and that religion has nothing to do with it, and how dare anyone even mention it, and let’s move on, and oh by the way religions inspire their followers to behave morally and we’d be in real trouble if religions weren’t here to make people behave themselves and be charitable, so stop picking on religions!

    Hmmmm…

    • All cops are corrupt since a handful got out of line.
      All atheists are like stalin and mao.
      All men are pedophiles cause a guy got caught down the street with child porn.
      Every great god pan is a derp because the one above is.

      Hmmmmm—derp derp derp

        • Daniel Berry, NYC

          No,all cops are NOT corrupt–to start with. But if they want to survive as cops they either learn to play the game or pretend to know nothing about it. The game is so destructive to so many that I’d wager that’s why the suicide rate is so high among cops.

        • Ok, just read your comment again. I still only see the same thing, you skewering religion because you happen to feel like a stand must be taken. Your fail is as epic as it was previously, I hold to no religion but have the decency to clearly state that not all of anything is inherently bad because of a select few. Unless of course your particular stand is controlling and extremist in which case I have a good feeling you are that very type.

    • Oh woe is me people who claim to be religious do bad things!!!but how do I handle the non religious doing bad things????oh what a canondrum, now my only option is to declare to the Internet that all bad is somethings fault.

      Hmmmm, what to do-where do I go…my only option is to escape humanity or declare myself superior and create a society where godpanism is the structure of the land.

      • You know the propaganda by now…you’ve lived in america long enough. Only those claiming religious authority are worthy of public ridicule for their crimes. Those leaders who are secular cannot he held to similar account…cause you know, they support their moral thought processes with a lower bar.

        Besides, its not like we’ve ever had a president pork an intern or anything!

        • You’re funny Lles…and also full of horse hockey.

          I as a priest rape survivor am a member of many pedophile hunting groups where we expose all those whom rape kids…not just the degenerate, souless, morally bankrupt evil scum of the Roman Catholic Church.

          This though is why we go harder against your disgusting church.

          You all got the guts to proclaim that you are not only the moral leaders of us all, but that your the defenders and protectors of children.

          Talk about hypocrisy.
          You will scream for the defense of the baby in the womb
          You will scream how much the use of contraceptives are evil.

          But when it comes time to it…your religious scumbags have raped, tortured, brutalized, and murdered hundreds of thousands of children.

          Actually we should put that amount to almost 1 BILLION children with the history of this church and it’s slaughter of innocent children during the Crusades, the Inquisitions the destruction of the Native American children, the torture and slavery of kids in the Magdalene and Good Shepherd Laundries.

          How DARE you all call yoursleves the protectors and defenders of children with a track record such as this?

          Yeah…you are a typical Roman Catholic….hey do not look at us…and what we do…look at others… oh and NEVER speak about this against us, never hold this against us…because why that would make you an Anti Catholic bigot.

          You all disgust me.

      • You’re funny.

        Problem is…the non religious do not go around declaring how moral they are, or how they are the chosen leaders of God’s one true church…

        Or say they are the defenders and protectors of children….

        Hypocrisy.

  2. The abuse of power by male Christian clergy is a huge problem on both sides of the pond. For instance, a recent study found that of those women who attend a Christian church, 1 in 30 have been the victims of clergy sexual misconduct.
    http://www.baylor.edu/clergysexualmisconduct/

    1 in 30. So out of America’s 150 million women, if we take 100 million as churchgoers, that’s millions of women, with additional incidents happening (and going unreported) every week.

    When will we learn to stop allowing abuse like this?

    • Hmmm, statistics from Baylor university about how men and women are apt to abuse the power they have. Pretty sure I didn’t need you to tell me that. It’s not even close to being a religious thing. When people don’t have proper over site in any career or business they abuse their authority.

      Been that way since the beginning of known time – epic fail of a comment from a short sighted individual……next—->

      • stephen, it is of course not a religious thing to have desires.

        However, it is a religious thing to think one has divine authority, or for others to think so. In that way, religion empowers people to act on their desires by giving them the air of divine authority.

        Plus, religions have been seen again and again to cover up instances like this, protecting the criminals. We’ve seen this in many different religions, from the huge and ongoing Catholic pedophile outbreak, to New Age gurus and Evangelical preachers. Religion thus makes the problem worse in multiple ways, often preventing the very oversight we both agree is appropriate.

  3. I am very much Catholic and there was a time when I was very upset with the church because of the cover up of sexual crimes. If they do not try to cover this terrible incident up I do not blame the church or religion. Immorality is everywhere and you cannot blame it on religion. I want this man and others in ministry that violate God’s law and man’s law to receive the most severe punishment they can for violating the trust of the people.

    • Here is the difference though Michael with the pedophiles and pedophile pimps of the RCC….

      The massive cover ups by the leaders and NOT ONE of them have been arrested nor prosecuted.

      The church may say it is helping us, the victims of their disgusting pedophiles…but they are NOT. They fight us every step of the way and mostly win against us by using the statue of limitations to defeat us…completely and totally opposite of what they promised us and told you people of the church.

      Your leader Pedophile Pimps and priests think they are above the law and all we should do as victims is forgive them but never seek their prosecution.|

      Many, many more of these scumbag pedophile priests are out there protected by this church, sheilded by this church…another one came out a few days ago about this scum Urrutigoity and how they KNEW he was raping kids…but he is safely in Paraguay, and even is defended and was promoted to second in command down there.

      So hey….the Roman Catholic Church is rotten to it’s core….and full of totally evil people and I say this of your parishioners too.

      You pay these people YOUR MONEY…and they use it to defend themselves against us when we bring suit against them for our ruined lives…and YOU PEOPLE aid and abbett in these crimes OF YOUR OWN CHILDREN….BY DOING SO.

      So as Jesus said in Matthew 23….your leaders make the rules but do not follow them, then turns you converts to them into being twice as fit for hell as they are.

      Jesus Christ condemns ALL OF YOU of this church…and NO while this problem remains, while your Pedophile PImp Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops whom moved these disgusting pedophiles around are fired and prosecuted…then YOU, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU PARISHIONERS OF THIS EVIL CHURCH ARE JUST AS GUILTY AS THEY ARE FOR THE CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST YOUR VERY OWN CHILDREN.

      But then again, what can we expect?

      The Roman Catholic Church just made Pope John Paul II, a confirmed pedophile pimp a Saint…so now you all got a Patron Saint of Pedophiles to praise and pray to.

  4. The Eastern Orthodox Liturgy recited each Sunday says: “Put not your trust in princes and sons of men in whom there is no salvation.” I have always known that it means the clergy certainly.

  5. ‘The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.’ The problem is that authority, both corporate and legal, yawns at this crime. It is as if it might be considered a minor offense and the perps know it! Victims must speak out and parents must become advocates for their children when they have been caught up in this crime. Silence increases the problem.Prosecution is a painful process, but it’s the right course of action for the victim and the community. Build more prisons and hand down long sentences! These offenders are incorrigible and incurable.

  6. Lynne Newington

    What a disgrace!
    We have Francis making a worlwide statement warning the Mafia “those who choose to walk down the road of evil, excommunicate themselves from God” yet how much more evil can it be to carry out such a despicable act metered out, against the most vulnerable and in Sicily of all places.
    I’m wondering if any of them were Muslims, with the Vatican call to Italy’s immigration authorities to discriminate in favour from Catholic populations claiming “the church is facing one of the most serious and biggest assaults on Christianity that history remembers”.
    Let’s hope they aren’ Muslims considering as yesterday, todays political and religious climate.
    Lets see if this priest receives excommunication papers: what’s the betting he doesn’t.

  7. I as a survivor of priest rape and soul torture find that this is business as usual for the Pedophiles, Hebephiles and Ephebophiles of the Roman Catholic Church, along with their Pedophile Pimps, the Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops whom decided it was better to protect the church, by protecting these rapists, by moving them from parish to parish and they raped more kids because of it. So this makes these Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops pimps for their pedophiles.

    Then we have you Parishioners whom apologize and defend these scum. You reject YOUR OWN CHILDREN WHOM WERE RAPED AND BRUTALIZED BY THESE DISGUSTING, IMMORAL, SOULESS PEOPLE!!!You stand up and you defend them, you apologize for them, you make excuses for them, you slam us when we speak out against this and demand your Pedophile Pimps be arrested and prosecuted for their crimes against us…and you freaking praise them as holy and just.

    You all just elected a CONFIRMED Pedophile Pimp in Pope John Paul II as a Saint, so now you all got a Patron Saint of Pedophiles to pray to and adore.

    How disgusting you all are.

    Go ahead and stand up for these scum, defend them, trash anyone whom stands up against this evil and demand justice.

    Your souls will in fact be burning in your hell you all love to condemn homosexuals and others to.

    You all disgust me.

    http://rapevictimsofthecatholicchurch.wordpress.com/

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