January 16, 2018

Kosaka Kumiko, considered a fugitive until last week, denies wrongdoing

Friday, May 12, 2017

Nun arrested for allegedly helping priests sexually abuse deaf children

Kosaka Kumiko is escorted out of a police station to attend a court hearing in Mendoza this week.
Kosaka Kumiko is escorted out of a police station to attend a court hearing in Mendoza this week.
Kosaka Kumiko is escorted out of a police station to attend a court hearing in Mendoza this week.

The students in the school for deaf children would call her the “bad nun,” the woman who was supposed to take care of them, but who would send them into rooms to be sexually abused by priests. Others said she committed abuse herself, and would force them to watch pornography on television. And in a particularly abhorrent case, after a five-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a priest, the Roman Catholic nun allegedly forced her to wear a diaper in class, to conceal the bleeding, according to news reports.

Because the other children at the school were deaf, only the victims’ abusers would have heard their cries.

The nun, a woman named Kosaka Kumiko, of Japanese heritage but Argentine nationality, was arrested and charged last Friday on suspicion of helping priests sexually abuse children at the Antonio Provolo Institute, a school for the hearing-impaired in Mendoza province, authorities said. She was also charged with physically abusing the students.

Kumiko’s arrest stems from a sex abuse scandal that has roiled the Catholic Church across the globe, and has resulted in Vatican probes and the arrests of two priests and three other men.

At least 24 students of the Provolo institute have come forward seeking justice for the abuse they say they suffered years ago at the hands of Father Nicola Corradi, 82, Father Horacio Corbacho, 55, and three other men. The five were arrested in late November by police who raided the school in Lujan de Cuyo, after they found magazines featuring naked women and about US$34,000 in Corradi’s room, reports said.

Kumiko faced a near nine-hour hearing before a judge last week, after a month of being a fugitive. She is believed to have been hidden in the northeast of the country and turned herself in to authorities in Buenos Aires last week.

Wearing her habit and a bulletproof vest in the courtroom, she denied all of the accusations, telling the judge “I knew nothing of the abuses, I watched over the children.”

“I’m innocent,” Kumiko said. “I did not know about the abuses. I am a good person who has given my life to God.”

Authorities began investigating Kumiko’s role in the scandal when a 17-year-old girl came forward to allege the nun had placed a dressing or diaper over her bleeding when she was five years old, which prevented her from sitting in the classroom. Other victims came forward, accusing Kumiko of actively participating in the abuse while she lived in the Provolo institute, from 2004 to 2012, authorities said.

Kumiko’s role was to take care of hearing-impaired children who lived far from Greater Mendoza and had to board at the school. Instead, she targeted the most vulnerable children, and covered up abuse by her superiors, prosecutors allege.

Victims and prosecutors say the priests are accused of raping, sexually abusing and fondling the students in bathrooms, dorms, a garden and a basement at the school.

The school has “a little chapel with an image of the Virgin and some chairs where the kids would get confession and receive communion. That’s where some of the acts were happening,” said former lead prosecutor Fabrizio Sidoti.

One of the alleged victims told the Associated Press she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex

“They always said it was a game: ‘Let’s go play, let’s go play’ and they would take us to the girls’ bathroom,” said one of the women who claims that she was abused at the school in Argentina.

Dozens of students in the Provolo institute’s school in Italy were similarly abused for decades. Some victims accuse the same priest who now stands charged of raping and molesting young deaf children, Corradi. In 2009, students in the Italian school went public with horrifying tales of their abuse. The Vatican ordered an investigation, and sanctioned four accused priests, but not Corradi.

After the students again named Corradi as an abuser in a 2014 letter and a bishop in Verona, Italy, the Vatican still took no action. But this year a Vatican official said Pope Francis wanted to assure the victims that the Church was taking measures to protect children and prevent sexual abuse. A Vatican investigative commission recently visited Mendoza to learn more about the case against the priests.

The accused priests are being held at a jail in Mendoza and have not spoken publicly since the arrest. If found guilty, they could face 10 to 50 years in prison.

Lawyers called Kumiko “the demon with the face of a woman” behind the abuse.

Kumiko was born in Japan, but has Argentine nationality, and arrived in Argentina with her family in 1977. Her parents later deceased, and Kumiko became a nun in the year 2000. After serving at the Próvolo insitute, she was based in different religious schools in the province of Buenos Aires.

In court, Kumiko said the allegations are a “strategy of the victims’ families to get money.” She said the wave of accusations against priests and nuns is nothing more than “a campaign of discrediting the Church, meant to defile an entire religious order.”

Washington Post

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