Predator priests were shuffled around globe, investigation finds
RIO DE JANEIRO — There he was, five decades later, the priest who had raped Joe Callander in Massachusetts. The photo in the Roman Catholic newsletter showed him with a smile across his wrinkled face, near-naked Amazon Indian children in his arms and at his feet.
The Rev. Mario Pezzotti was working with children and supervising priests in Brazil.
It’s not an isolated example.
In an investigation spanning 21 countries across six continents, the Associated Press found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad. Some escaped police investigations. Many had access to children in another country, and some abused again.
A priest who admitted to abuse in Los Angeles went to the Philippines, where US church officials mailed him checks and advised him not to reveal their source. A priest in Canada was convicted of sexual abuse and then moved to France, where he was found guilty of abuse again in 2005. Another priest was moved back and forth between Ireland and England, despite being diagnosed as a pederast, a man who commits sodomy with boys.
“The pattern is if a priest gets into trouble and it’s close to becoming a scandal or if the law might get involved, they send them to the missions abroad,’’ said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and critic of what he says is a practice of international transfers of accused and admitted priest child abusers. “Anything to avoid a scandal.’’
Church officials say that in some cases, the priests themselves moved to another country and the new parish might not have been aware of past allegations. In other cases, church officials said that they did not believe the allegations or that the priest had served his time and reformed.
Callander says he was 14 when he was raped three times and abused on other occasions in 1959 at the now-closed Xaverian Missionary Faith High School in Holliston, Mass. The Xaverians settled the case for $175,000 in 1993. At least two other accusations of sexual abuse were leveled against Pezzotti in the Boston area.
In the meantime, from 1970 to 2003, Pezzotti was in Brazil, where he worked with the Kayapo Indians.
In a handwritten note of apology to Callander in January 1993, Pezzotti said he had cured himself in the jungle.
“I asked to leave Holliston and go to Brazil to change my life and begin a new life. Upon arrival in Brazil, confiding in God’s mercy, I owned up to the problem,’’ Pezzotti wrote. “With divine help, I overcame it.’’
There is no evidence that Pezzotti, now 75, abused children in Brazil, which has more Catholics than any other nation. Brazilian law enforcement officials said they were unaware of any complaints about him.
The Rev. Robert Maloney, a former provincial of the Xaverians who worked closely on Callander’s settlement, said Pezzotti was allowed to stay in Brazil for another decade and work with children after a psychological evaluation. He added that a Xaverian investigation into Pezzotti and his work in Brazil turned up nothing.
After Pezzotti returned to Italy in 2003, he was constantly being asked for, Maloney said.
In 2008, Pezzotti returned to Brazil. A few months later, Callander saw the photos of him on the Internet and complained to the church. The priest was quickly sent back to Italy.
The Xaverian vicar general, the Rev. Luigi Menegazzo, said Pezzotti works at Xaverian headquarters in Parma tending to sick and elderly priests. Asked whether Pezzotti had any contact with children or public parish work, he said, “Absolutely in no way.’’
Reached by telephone, Pezzotti said only: “I don’t see why I have to talk about it. Everything was resolved and I don’t feel like talking.’’