Father Julio Cesar Grassi was a celebrity in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. The young, dynamic, media-savvy priest networked with wealthy Argentines to fund an array of schools, orphanages and job training programs for poor and abandoned youths, winning praise from Argentine politicians and his superior, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Grassi called his foundation Felices los Niños, “Happy Children.”
Today, Grassi is a convicted sex offender who remains free on a conditional release after being sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2009 for molesting a prepubescent boy in his care.
Yet in the years after Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — has declined to meet with the victim of the priest’s crimes or the victims of other predations by clergy under his leadership. He did not offer personal apologies or financial restitution, even in cases in which the crimes were denounced by other members of the church and the offending priests were sent to jail.
Since he was elected to the papacy Wednesday, media attention has focused primarily on Bergoglio’s actions during the “Dirty War” years of Argentina’s military dictatorship. But at a time when the Vatican is facing a costly legal and moral crisis on several continents over sex crimes committed by its prelates, Bergoglio’s handling of pedophilic clergy under his authority offers insight into how he might approach the scandals.