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Lawyer urges Italian bishop be charged in child abuse case

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Second lawyer calls for charges against Italian bishop
  • Lawyers say bishop helped cover up abuse by local priest
  • Priest is on trial for alleged sexual abuse of minors
  • Bishop said he was aware of accusations but didn't report them

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- A second lawyer is calling for charges to be filed against an Italian Catholic bishop for failing to report the alleged sexual abuse of minors by a Roman priest.

Fabrizio Gallo represents an alleged victim in the trial of Rev. Ruggero Conti, who is accused of molesting seven boys at a parish in Rome.

Gallo said Thursday he believes there is enough evidence to prove the bishop, Monsignor Gino Reali, knew about the alleged abuse and did nothing to stop it -- making him an accomplice to the crime.

A lawyer representing other alleged victims of Conti urged the prosecutor last month to charge Reali on similar grounds.

Reali testified at Conti's trial last month that he was aware of the accusations against the priest, and although he found them "alarming," he did not stop the priest's contact with children.

He said he spoke to more than 20 other people, including priests, about the allegations and afterward told Conti to take on "more prudent behavior" toward children.

Reali testified that he even established a diocesan tribunal to investigate Conti's actions based on a victim's account, but a hearing never took place because the victim backed down from testifying.

When Reali was asked by the civil lawyers representing some of the victims at the trial why he didn't stop Conti's contact with children, given the gravity of the accusations, Reali replied it was because he tried to get the facts and not just rely on rumors.

Under Italian law, a bishop is not obliged to tell police about a priest accused of committing sexual abuse.

Vatican guidelines regarding clerical abuse state the local diocese must investigate "every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric," and that "if the allegation has a semblance of truth," it must be referred to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith so it can decide whether a canonical trial should be launched.

Reali testified he was aware of his obligation under the guidelines but did not inform the congregation.

Gallo said he requested Monday that prosecutors charge Reali with aiding and abetting the crime of sexual abuse.

Reali had no comment about the trial or Gallo's request, his office told CNN on Thursday.

At last month's hearing, lawyer Nino Marazzita, who represents other alleged victims of Conti's, urged the prosecutor to charge Reali with aiding and abetting the crime of pedophilia.

The "crime of pedophilia must be fought by eradicating the pedophiles and also by eradicating those who allow it," Marazzita said last month.

It was the first time such an indictment request had been made against an Italian bishop in relation to the sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric, Marazzita told CNN.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops Conference, told reporters last week "it is possible" that in Italy there are cases in which priests covered up accusations against pedophile priests.

The conference has said there have been about a 100 allegations of clerical sexual abuse over the past decade.