"My Trusty Gavel" by Brian Turner / CC BY 2.0

Trial of Catholic lay leader highlights gaps in church’s sex abuse oversight

Sep 17, 2020

By Claire Giangravé

The sexual abuse trial of Piero Alfio Capuana, the lay leader of the 5,000-member Catholic Culture and Environment Association, began in this small Sicilian city on Tuesday (Sept. 15), three years after the abuse allegedly took place.

Capuana, 75,  known as “the Archangel” by acolytes, is accused of delegating his associates to select and organize his targets, some as young as 11 years old. The alleged victims told Religion News Service that they would be called to a back room at the Cenacle, as the association’s headquarters is known, after ceremonies in which Capuana would purportedly speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit. Behind closed doors, the young girls said, they would be instructed to bathe him and perform sexual acts.

Three of his closest associates, known as the “12 Disciples,” are also charged, accused of organizing and facilitating the abuse.

Even after accusations that their leader was sexually abusing girls first emerged, few members believed them. When parents watched Capuana kiss their underage daughters on the lips or request solo dances with them, most were not concerned.

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