“She was my protector,” he said.
But nothing and no one, Diego charged, protected him from Mura — the religion teacher who invited the then-teenage boy to the priest’s small apartment on Brothers Grimm Street after class one day in 1989. There, Diego, now 39, said Mura cajoled him into a kiss. A few days later, he was asked to return, suffering the first of what he described as hundreds of incidences of sexual abuse that turned a quiet boy who wanted to be a pilot into a deeply troubled adult.
After he finally came forward in 2009, Diego’s case languished. The local diocese even transferred Mura in 2012 to a school where the priest had regular access to children as young as 14. That’s when Diego, who is still Catholic, made what would become a decisive move — he wrote directly to Pope Francis.
His case is one of several in which Francis has personally intervened to aid alleged abuse victims in what the Vatican calls yet another push for change by a pope known for leading by example. The pope, according to the Vatican, escalated Diego’s case, prompting an official church investigation that could ultimately lead to Mura’s defrocking. Given the length of such legal processes in the church, it could take a year or more to establish his guilt or innocence.
Yet even as Francis seeks to bring a forceful new tone to an issue that severely damaged the Catholic Church’s reputation before his appointment, the pope is sometimes swimming against the tide. In local dioceses from Italy to the Philippines, Francis is confronting stubborn and sloth-like bureaucracies that are still committing some of the same grave errors of the past.
That, Vatican officials say, is what Francis is trying to change, and few cases exemplify that effort more than Diego’s. Mura declined to comment through a representative of the Diocese of Naples, which additionally refused to say whether the priest is denying the charges against him.
“I would say the pope is very sensitive to all kinds of suffering, and certainly he is sending an indirect message,” said a senior Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “These kinds of cases will not be tolerated.”