Pope Francis has defrocked an Italian priest found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors, reversing an earlier decision to reduce his punishment, the diocese at the heart of the scandal said on Wednesday.
Mauro Inzoli, 67, was defrocked in 2012 after he was first accused of paedophilia, but that decision was reversed in 2014, when Pope Francis ordered him to stay away from minors and retire to “a life of prayer and humble discretion.”
On Wednesday the diocese of Crema in northern Italy said Francis had “ruled definitively” on May 20 that Inzoli — sentenced to nearly five years in prison last year for sex abuse — would be stripped of his clerical status.
The priest, dubbed “Don Mercedes” by the press for his penchant for luxury cars, was found guilty by a Cremona court of eight counts of sexual abuse of children aged 12 to 16 years old between 2004 and 2008.
The Cremona court ruling found that Inzoli had molested the youngsters during confessions, while they were away together on summer and winter camps, and even in hospital, La Repubblica newspaper reported.
One victim told the court the priest “referred to a sort of ‘baptism of the testicles’ which he said was a Jewish ritual found in the Old Testament as a sign of affection between father and son,” it said.
There is no such ritual in the Old Testament or in Judaism.
Inzoli, an ex-confessor of senators who also had a taste for cigars and high-end restaurants, agreed to pay 125,000 euros ($142,000) in compensation to the families of his victims in May last year.
Defrocking is considered the harshest penalty for priests within the Church and means the offender is forbidden from exercising any clerical duties at all, even in private.