After three young men and a boy told police last June an Italian priest had been sexually molesting them for years at a shelter for poor children, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Kenya announced the church would investigate thoroughly.
Ten months later, nothing has been investigated by the church, its lawyer says, and the Vatican has not been notified.
The accused priest, the Rev. Renato Kizito Sesana, continues to run the facility along with other shelters on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Kenyan police say they found no evidence and believe Sesana is innocent. Sesana himself has denied the allegations, saying some of his accusers may have been bribed or coerced as part of a plan to seize church assets worth up to $5.3 million.
It is unclear whether the abuse took place or not, but the church’s response — or lack of it — has inspired furious debate in Kenya. The case is being closely watched amid questions into the Roman Catholic Church’s ability to deal with sexual predators among its clergy around the world following reports that church authorities ignored or covered up allegations against priests in Europe and America.
“The church was not one of the places we paid much attention to when we were looking at issues of children’s abuse,” said Millie Odhiambo, a director of Cradle, a children’s rights group, and a member of parliament. “There was always this presumption that the church is safe. We are now focusing attention even on the church.”