Declared innocent, 16 years later
Abuse of any human being or creature is abhorrent. Abuse of children carries a particular horror. For innocent people to be accused of horrific abuse of children is a shattering experience. On 4 December, 24 people from the Modena area of Italy were declared innocent – after 16 years: 17 parents and 7 priests. Families were destroyed, and seven were dead.
The Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire reported it on 5 December. The original Italian report is at http://www.avvenire.it/Cronaca/Pagine/innocenti-16-anni-dopo.aspx
DECLARED INNOCENT, 16 YEARS LATER
On 12 November 1998, well into night and with cries of desperation, their four children were taken away by the forces of order. The charge against the two parents, Lorena and Delfino Covezzi, was that they were part of a gang of satanist paedophiles.
For sixteen years since that day they have been unable to see their children (the youngest was 3 years old, the biggest 11), who have since been told that the two monsters (ogres) parents were responsible for unprecedented violence, orgies in cemeteries, desecration, abuse of dozens of children, even beheadings of young victims.
Yesterday, December 4, 2014, the justice of this State has admitted the error: they are finally acquitted for not having committed the crime. A ruling that Lorraine, 55, had to accept alone, because in the meantime her husband died of a heart attack. As did Father Giorgio Govoni, beloved pastor in Lower Modenese, alleged head of the satanist pedophiles. He was acquitted and rehabilitated after his heartbreak stress (crepacuore) that took him away in May 2000 in the office of his lawyer. And as did six other people in this horrific story which for 17 years has disrupted the peaceful villages of Lower Modenese. Another accused mothers committed suicide. And about twenty children were taken from their parents at the time.
“My second thought went to my husband” – Lorena tells in tears after the acquittal -. “The first went to our four children, who now are 20 to 27 years and who no longer want even to hear their mother mentioned.”
It is the same tragic script in which we encounter every time we encounter a case of false abuse: in the desperate years of separation the children, forcibly removed from their parents, are convinced not only of their guilt, but above all of having been abandoned. And they do not forgive.
“When the eldest reached 18 years, the paternal aunt tried to talk to her, but she has chased her away screaming that for 7 years expected at least a postcard and that we had abandoned her,” says Lorena. She speaks to us by phone from France where she lives: “When the social services of Mirandola knew that I was expecting her fifth child, they warned the juvenile court, so I escaped to give birth abroad, not to escape to the processes, but that Delfino remained in Emilia to defend himself; but to save at least Stefano “, the fifth child, the only one that remained. There was in fact an earlier case, another of the accused couples was expecting a baby and the newborn child was taken from her …
Innocent, then. But Agnese, Henrico, Paolo and Valeria do not know about it, do not even want to know. They have now grown up in foster families that have lived alongside them, but specially because they were always in touch with the social services and psychologists who brought about the trouble:
“It all started in 1997 when our granddaughter, an 8 year old with severe mental illness and therefore already in the care of social services, began to tell of ogres and killings. There was nothing but her stories, but she was believed and bit by bit the avalanche grew.” The real problem is the method used by psychologists and social workers, who questioned more and more children with an American technique inconceivable today, but then considered cutting edge: progressive suggestion to the child to whom, from dreams or fragments of interviews, were suggested the answers that were expected.
Today the Carta di Noto (Noto Charter, 1996) and the Protocolo di Venezia (Protocol of Venice 2007) inhibit this havoc, and experts are trained to collect the testimonies of children without leading them, filming and recording every interview. In the case of Lower Modenese, instead, the videos are an exception, and from the few that remain it is seen how they arrived at Don Giorgio Govoni: “Piccolina, who was that man? A doctor?” Answer: yes. “But it could also be a mayor?” Yes. “Even a priest?” Yes. “He might be named George? Have you ever heard that name?” Obviously the answer is yes.
The small child told of babies beheaded and then thrown by Don George in the river. As a result, even no child was missing in the area, the Panaro river was dredged, an operation which cost 280 million lire …
The psychosis spread, dozens of children added stories to stories, always questioned by the “American” method, and 17 adults ended up under investigation, as well as seven priests entirely unconnected. Seven people died of a broken heart (the sister-in-law of Lorena, mother of the mentally disturbed child, died in jail at 36 years of age); but above all none of those twenty small children taken wants ever to see the parents again.
“If Delfino and I are not crazy, it is only thanks to faith and total solidarity of the area, which has always supported our innocence” – said Lorena -. “But now I’d love to be able to be heard by my children, to explain to them that I have always looked for them. I know where they live; only a year ago, the death of my husband, for the inheritance, because of the few belongings left to them … but they refused that too. I rely on the Holy Spirit to help me.”
“The appeals court in its judgment of acquittal strongly criticizes the actions of the Local Health Authority of Mirandola and speaks very clearly of the lack of preparation of psychologists” – Advocate Pier Francesco Rossi emphasises. “Now the responsibility to initiate a civil action is to be decided: surely someone has to pay.”
“But no one will restore life to this family, which was beautiful,” notes Don Ettore Rovan, author of a large volume about this whole story, written in 2003 and judged by the court faultless in content. “I admire their strength, they have always had faith in the good, even in the worst moments. I ask myself: what is the power that has the right to tear away for 16 years the children from their parents? The state has abused its power, these four children are ruined forever. ”
“A State that absolves a family after it was destroyed,” says Carlo Giovanardi, who already in 1998, as vice president of the Chamber, asked Minister of Justice Diliberto to intervene.
The Noto Charter:
This document which gathers the guidelines for the investigation and psychological examination of a minor arose from interdisciplinary collaboration of magistrates, lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, child neuropsychiatrists, criminologists and legal medics in the course of a Convention on Sexual abuse of minors: roles and responsabilities which took place at Noto 6 – 9 June 1996. Updates followed.
Protocol of Venice:
A meeting of experts at San Servolo, Venice, 21-23 September 2007, organised by the Guglielmo Gulotts Foundation, by the University of Padua and the University of Turin, drew up this Protocol on the forensic diagnosis of collective sexual abuse. It applies the principles of the Charter of Noto.
This is so dreadful and devastating that comment is impossible. Proper assessment and examination of complainants is precluded by the so-called “principle of paramountcy.” Wicked injustices are still being sanctioned as a result
Surely it was the mindset of those adults who wanted to believe that satanic child abuse was taking place that led to this disaster – rather than the initial childish accusation? It would be a huge mistake to extrapolate from this case the conclusion that allegations of sexual abuse by children are likely to be fictitious. The satanic abuse myth is one thing, the frequency of non-cultic child sexual abuse is something else entirely – as evidenced, for example, by the recent conclusion of a UK police chief that police can no longer cope with the volume of cases of internet viewing of child pornography. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/15/rotherham-child-sexual-abuse-scandal-tip-iceberg-police-chief
To me the ‘principle of paramountcy’ means the paramountcy of the safety of children – and does not preclude the rigorous testing of any allegation for possible contamination by malice and daftness. To abandon that principle would be to take us all back to a situation of disbelief of all allegations of child sexual abuse – by far the very worst scenario. A balanced attitude cannot be found by simply reacting to one appalling miscarriage of justice.