Former Students’ Accounts of an Abusive Priest at “San Vicente de Paul” School in La Plata, Buenos Aires

Raúl Sidders was transferred at the beginning of the year to Iguazú, Misiones, where he continues to be in contact with minors and is a gendarmerie chaplain.

member of an organization that fights against abuses in the Catholic Church

“You women, the only thing you know is how to eat, sleep and fuck,” said “Father Raul” with laughter, as he introduced himself before a high school class in the teacher’s absence. “That was on the first day of school. I was shocked”, remembers Antonia, former student of the “San Vicente de Paul” School in La Plata. The male alumni remember the school’s priest as “Frasquito” (little jar), the priest who asked out-of-place questions during confession and forced them to masturbate to keep their semen in jars.

These horrifying memories about Raul Anatoly Sidders were told by his former students, years after they finished high school. They remembered that during confession “Father Raul” always asked if they masturbated, if yes, thinking about what, and if they said no, he taught them how to do it, especially to boys. Antonia remembers that he had always had discriminatory and denigrating attitudes towards girls: “He would treat us badly, told us that we were cats [Spanish slang for “prostitutes”]. He didn’t treat the boys like that, they were his favorites”.

Raul Sidders served at the School from 2002. In La Plata, he belonged to the most conservative and reactionary tendency in the Catholic Church. He even got to the point of being denounced in the Inadi (National Institute against Discrimination) in 2013, when in his television program “Ave María Purísima”, in which students from his school also participated, he treated as “crazy” and “vixens” the women who had demonstrated in Plaza Moreno, in front of La Plata’s Cathedral, against gender violence. After this episode the Archbishop had to stop broadcasting the program. To eliminate any remaining doubt about the character of this priest, in another broadcast, Sidders had suggested that if there was a square called “Che Guevara” there would have to be another one called “Emilio Massera” [military officer part of the 1976 right-wing terrorist dictatorship in Argentina, which was responsible for the disappearing of 30.000 people].

Before arriving at “San Vicente” School, Sidders was a gendarmerie chaplain in Neuquén until 2002, when ATE (the Argentine organization of state workers) and Mapuche organizations requested his expulsion for authoritarianism and land invasion. After this, he was transferred to the capital city of La Plata, in Buenos Aires Province, in the diocese commanded by Héctor Aguer, who entrusted him with the chaplaincy of the kindergarten “San Bernardo”, the school “San Vicente de Paul” and the Institute of Higher Education.

Ana, mother of Juan, a former student of the school, could not believe what the young people were saying about Sidders’ depraved sexual practices. With their stories, all the pieces began to fall into place. “My son went to that school from third grade [primary school] to third year of high school. I noticed changes in his behavior as a pre-teen, between the ages of 11 and 12. He would skip classes, he would wander around town center by himself, not wanting to be in school. I had conversations with him, I would take him to the park to ask him what was going on, and he would cry. He would tell me that nothing was wrong with him, but he would cry. I decided to take him to therapy; he had two different therapists. I never thought there was anything going on at school”.

When he was in third year of high school, Juan told his mother that he did not want to go to school anymore, and he left San Vicente. Ana, to this day, feels regret. “I feel guilty for not being able to see what was happening to my son. With what his friends told me, I have no doubt about what he [Sidders] had been doing. A former co-worker who went to the same school told me what would happen at confession, exactly what the kids at my house had said”.

Raul Sidders was transferred in early 2020 to the city of Iguazu, Misiones, where he is part of the Province Church’s dome and serves again as a national gendarmerie chaplain. What is even worse, he is working in a church where he has a role in a children’s dining room, with whom he is in permanent contact.