After multiple complaints of abuse against Raúl Sidders, the struggle for justice is underway

On the right Raúl Sidders, next to the former Archbishop of La Plata, Héctor Aguer.

The Prensa Obrera (Workers’ Press) article [INSERTAR LINK AL ARTICULO “Former Students’ Account..”], which first made public a denunciation against the priest of the “San Vicente de Paul” School in La Plata, Raúl Sidders, for abuses and violence committed against students and former students, had enormous repercussions. Multiple testimonies were posted on social networks by victims of the priest, and members of the school’s educational community began to organize their demand for justice. Even in Misiones, the province to which Sidders was transferred to serve as a gendarmerie chaplain, groups of women engaged in a campaign to demand his expulsion.

The case is shocking. “Father Raúl” had control over the entire institution. He forced teenagers to confess alone with him, under the threat of sanction, and he took advantage of those private moments to exercise all kinds of harassment, abuse and psychological violence. Moreover, he used the secrets from confessions to torment the students. One young man reported on his Twitter account that Sidders tormented him for being gay, and even “took me out of the closet in front of the whole school. No one did anything.”

[The post reads: “Priest Sidders, from ‘San Vicente de Paul’ School, tormented me my entire high school period because he knew I was gay. It was high time this m* f* would fall. Thread open.” Below, there is a link to the mentioned article by Prensa Obrera. The picture in it shows comments where Sidders suggests someone to wear only a “little thong” as they said to have no robe.]

An outspoken misogynist, Sidders is close to the former Archbishop of La Plata, ultramontane Monsignor Hector Aguer, who for decades led the attacks against the movement fighting for women’s rights and sexual diversity. A public exponent of the most reactionary wing of the Catholic Church, this priest conducted a television program on a local cable channel called Ave Maria Purísima. The program had to be cancelled in 2011 after the complaints filed against him in the Inadi (the National Institute against Discrimination), for some statements he had made. He had called those who had participated in a mobilization against gender violence “crazy girls”, “vixens” and “little sluts”, who “intend to kill little babies that are about to be born”, all this in front of children and young people who accompanied him. In addition, he dedicated his programs to preaching racism, for example, extolling the colonization of America as the “greatest work of man”.

This same content is what he taught at the head of the school. Denigrating comments towards women were commonplace, even in front of elementary school children. According to his perception, women exist only to satisfy men’s sexual desires, and with that conception, he harassed teenage girls who confessed to him. A second testimony published in our media tells how he asked a teenage girl to masturbate thinking about him, and show her how to practice oral sex and even tried to force her to have intercourse with a classmate. But his fixation was on boys, whom he taught how to masturbate. They called him “Frasquito” (little jar), because he made them put their semen in jars and kept them.

As we can see, these aberrant acts were not only a result of a personal depravity but of an entire ideological conception that he passed on to the students of San Vicente. His opposition to the teaching of sex education was absolute. He prohibited the teachers from working on the subject, interrupted their classes, and had those who defied his authority expelled from the school in order to block the treatment of these subjects. He confiscated deliveries of condoms from the Ministry of Health because, according to him, they were useless, as he repeated in masses, classes, and confessions. The result of this lack of access to sex education is present until today, as many of the young people who suffered from these abuses several years ago, are still tortuously processing the fact that what they experienced were abusive situations.

Now that the limit imposed by the fear of reprisals and disbelief has been irreversibly broken, students, former students, their mothers, teachers and former teachers have launched a campaign to claim for justice and demand for the investigation of the publicly denounced events. They are gathering dozens of testimonies about different situations of abuse and violence involving Sidders, while supporting and looking after those who share their stories. They created an email account for this purpose: [email protected].

The public campaign is fundamental to break the impunity web that holds these abusive priests, who take refuge in the power of the Catholic Church. It is worth remembering that another denounced priest in the region, Eduardo Lorenzo, was protected first by Aguer and then by the current Archbishop “Tucho” Fernández (Bergoglio’s right hand man), which is why for a decade the denunciations of sexual abuse were filed in the Justice Department. When the case was taken up by the women’s organizations, it reached the media (a public conference was even held in the Buenos Aires Legislature at the request of the Left Front seats in Congress), and new victims overcame the threats and pressures and added their testimonies. Cornered, Lorenzo ended up committing suicide at the headquarters of Caritas, where he had been moved by the Church for his protection.

This outrageous case also forces a critical reflection on the absolute control that the Church has over thousands of children and young people who attend denominational schools. It sheds light on the need to annul the Article 5 of the Law on Comprehensive Sex Education (Law 26,150), which subordinates the contents to the institutional ideology of each establishment. The teaching of these topics should be elaborated by the teaching staff, the students and the women’s organizations, to impose a sex education that is secular, scientific and respectful of diversity. It is, moreover, a new reason to demand the separation of the Church from the State.