Church Commission hearing cases of sexually abused victims

Ricardo Benedetti, an Argentinian victim of a clerical sexual abuse, who is pushing for a change in his country’s law to eliminate prescription on sexual crimes against children would like to speak to Pope Francis and ask him to push for these amendments.

The proposed bill was introduced in the country’ Senate for discussion just days after Chile’s congress voted July 6 to remove the statute of limitations on child abuse from its own criminal code.

Speaking with CRUX news agency, survivor Ricardo Benedetti, who says he was abused by a priest when he was 8 years old, and who is today the main force behind the new bill, said it’s important to have the support of his fellow Argentine, the Pope, for this law.

Many would listen to the Pope

“It would be a great step for survivors if the Pope was to accompany the bill proposal, because there are more than a few senators and deputies who would listen to him,” Benedetti said.

“If he wants to take the matter of providing justice to survivors, and preventing these crimes from ever happening again seriously, he can count me as an ally,” Benedetti said, saying he would like to have the opportunity to have a “frank conversation” with the pontiff.

According to Lorena Marzen, a legislator who supports the bill, “pain doesn’t have a deadline.” Argentina, she said, needs to be sure such crimes aren’t prosecuted solely due to the passage of time, because victims can only have peace when their abusers are sentenced.

Benedetti recounted the sexual abuse he allegedly suffered when he was a child.

“At 8 years old I was abused by a priest, prior to my First Communion in the process of confession,” Benedetti said, adding that the abuse lasted for two years. “My personal process was to bury this abuse in books and television. That was my childhood. Yet, since what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, here I am.”

Repressed memory for decades

Having repressed the memory for decades, Benedetti said that after meeting a group of survivors he decided to go public in late 2018. Since he’s 51, the crimes have passed the statute of limitations according to Argentinian law. The priest who allegedly abused him is still alive.

His experience, he said, hasn’t changed his faith, and today he chooses to send his children to a Catholic high school. But he’s committed to making sure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to his children or anyone else, noting the Church is only one sphere where these crimes happen: “We know that where they happen the most is in the family,” he said.

So far, he’s not been approached by any church officials, but says that through a “personal friend,” he’s had an informal dialogue with the Vatican. But, he insisted, he would like to talk to Francis about his case.