St Jose de Calasanz: The Tainted Saint

From John Cornwell's book The Pope in Winter

"We find the saintly founder of the Piarists [St Jose] writing to a colleague, advising that he 'cover up this great shame in order that it does not come to the notice of our superiors". 

"Pope Innocent X appointed a man known to be an inveterate paedophile to take charge of the order".


The Deep Roots of Rome’s Institutionalised Child Abuse

Dr Clive Gillis Had Karen Liebreich not arrived in Florence as ‘a naïve 21 year old student’ to study at the European University Institute – before the European ideal went sour – this story would be unknown.

Marooned in the crumbling local archive of the Scolopi (literally ‘Pious Schools’) also known as the Piarists, she stumbled across the secret papal suppression of the order in 1646. Resisting the crafty archivist’s diversionary tactics, her quest for truth took her all the way into the Secret Archive of Rome’s Inquisition. She discovered that incriminating documents had been destroyed by guilty parties and that the order’s historians had since covered up the truth. Her expose Fallen Order is a must for any Protestant bookshelf.

The late Pope’s eulogy

In 1997 Pope John Paul II wrote to the head of the Piarists who governs 1,500 priests in nineteen provinces particularly in Spain, Italy, Mexico and Argentina. The Pope praised the order’s founder known in Spanish as San Jose Calasanz or in Italian as San Giuseppe Calasanzio. The Pope recalled how in 1948 ‘my venerable Predecessor Pius XII,’ in the Brief Providentissimus Deus proclaimed Calasanz to be the ‘heavenly patron of all Christian schools in the world.’

Following Calasanz’s canonisation by Pope Clement XIII in 1767, his statue was placed in the right transept of St. Peter's in Rome.

Sadly, Calasanz’s schools were hotbeds of abuse. Worse, Calasanz personally and repeatedly protected two senior priests who led the paedophile ring in a 20 year reign of terror. This fact was known to the Inquisition and the Roman Curia. Even the pope eventually came to know of it, and did nothing.

Romish paedophilia scandals always follow a certain patter, whether it be the Ferns Report in the Irish Republic, or the Cardinal Law affair in Boston, or any other. Guilty priests continue unreported to the police. They are quietly moved to new posts where inevitably they offend again. Parents and families of the abused children are ignored, disbelieved, pressurised and bribed into silence. The child victim is of no concern.

Though these things are dubbed ‘a scandal of our age’ none of this is new. Calasanz was guilty of all of these strategies and that on a huge scale. His pious schools teemed with poor children for priests to prey upon.

Readers will know that the success of the Jesuits was based on education. But in Europe the Jesuits provided only for the nobility. Educational opportunities for poor children in Italy were few at the dawn of the seventeenth century.

500 children within days

Calasanz had come to Rome from Spain hoping to wheedle his way into a sinecure. Disappointed, he visited by chance a solitary poor school across the Tiber. Even here the priest charged a fee. Calasanz determined to create an order of teaching priests where any child with a certificate of poverty would be accepted. He opened his first school in Rome in 1600, and within days he had 500 poor children.

His syllabus was a winner. The children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic, with paper, quills and ink provided free. This opened up careers in trade, secretarial work, bank clerking or warehouse factoring.

The Jesuits, although innovators, insisted upon classical methods. To their horror the Piarists successfully employed new techniques. Naturally there was a stampede of aspiring poor parents applying for places. New pious schools opened every few months across Italy. Beating the Jesuits at their own game, the two orders became bitter enemies.

Alas, this avalanche of demand was a paedophile’s dream. Teenagers entered the Piarist novitiate at 15, hopefully for five years of training, but in practice it seems that this did not necessarily follow. Calasanz once boasted that if he had 10,000 priests he could place them all in a month. Standards were jettisoned. Those wanting a meal ticket, those escaping jurisdiction of civil courts, and those rejected by other orders, were recruited and sent out barely trained. Some teachers were almost illiterate.

A subordinate of Calasanz soon blew the whistle on this excessive recruiting. The matter reached the pope but Calasanz simply ignored an ensuing papal ban. As reports of flagrant child abuse filtered through to Calasanz, his response was always the same. ‘See that this business does not become public but is covered up …. Your Reverence must cover up everything … from the public.’ At the dame time he urged that the parents be pacified and the offending priest moved on. If in the south of Italy he was moved north and vice versa. There was never any thought for the pupil victim.

Fr Alacchi

Two of Calasanz’s senior priests emerged as ringleaders, fostering likeminded subordinates, thus institutionalising the abuse. Father Alacchi was also a sadistic man.

What did Calasanz do? Alacchi had a genius for chatting up the rich to endow the Piarists with money and buildings, so Calasanz promoted him to roving ‘visitor general’. When more scandal emerged Calasanz sent him on pilgrimage until the heat died down. Then later he brought him back in the same role, whence more allegations arose. So he was further promoted to supremely powerful ‘consultor general and procurator’ thus side stepping scandal but renewing Alacchi’s access to the young. The paedophile ring was sustained by positively sheltering the culprits whilst negatively discrediting their accusers.

Stefano Cherubini

Worse was the case of Stefano Cherubini whose father and brother were both successful papal lawyers and whose family was at once noble and very wealthy. There was only one thing that could have made young Cherubini, for whom the world was his oyster, dash to join the Piarists at an early age. And with the poise and arrogance of breeding he took little care to conceal his activities. Evidence against him was all too abundant. The Cherubini lawyers simply closed ranks, intimidated accusers, and stole incriminating evidence. On one occasion they managed to lift a whole, carefully compiled, incriminating dossier from right under Calasanz’s inept nose to destroy it. Yet weak Calasanz allowed himself to be totally reliant upon Cherubini financially and for getting preference for the order’s affairs. So when it came to promoting Cherubini out of tricky situations the deal had to befit his rank, and despite showers of protests from accusing priests, Calasanz let him become his right hand man. This policy was even given Latin formality promoveature ut amoveatur – loosely promoted to avoid scandal.

Jesuits vs Piarists

When the Jesuits turned on the heretic astronomer Galileo, their rivals, the Piarists of Florence, who had now grown rich, fielded several suitable fathers to befriend Galileo. This provided the Jesuits with an opportunity to injure the Piarists, In the course of the inquisition proceedings that followed, Calasanz was deposed, and Cherubini, by exploiting his connections, assumed leadership of the order.

The outcry against Cherubini took undoubted proof of his rampant abuse right into the Inquisition and thence to the Roman curia and pope. Nevertheless Cherubini remained Superior until unbridled scandal of every sort became open. Even then the pope’s inspector, although a rival Jesuit, because of Cherubini’s social rank, produced a report exonerating him.

The order was suppressed in 1646 – but it was suppressed for countenancing the heretical views of Galilean views, not for their abuse. When the Piarists resurfaced, decades later, all this was buried. Cherubini was the first to leave and having private means he was the least hurt. Later historians simply perpetuated the cover up.

The present writer found a 1917 copy of the widely reprinted standard history of Calasanz in an old Italian bookstore. Urbano Tosetti’s history (see illustration) commemorated Calasanz’s 1767 canonisation. Constantly reprinted it comprises 222 pages of sheer adulation. On page 173 is Rome’s bare faced lie concerning paedophile Cherubini, ascribing his belated demotion from Superior to ‘administrative incompetence’ (see illustration).

Liebreich proves conclusively that Cherubini had been caught ‘red handed’ with a pupil. Further, a July 1646 letter from another priest, whilst freely admitting a ten year knowledge of Cherubini’s child abuse (roguery), actually goes on to expose the Cherubini deposition due to maladministration as a lie, as something ‘invented by the illustrious Auditors … to cover up his (Cherubini’s) roguery.’ Cherubini did not of course go to prison but simply on to another pious school in Frascati.

There is in Tosetti, as with every Romanist ‘saint’, a large section glorifying Calasanz’s death. His heart, tongue, liver, spleen and cranium still reside in San Pantaleo, the order’s church fronting the Corso in Rome today. Romanists place great stress on potential ‘saints’ being incorrupt in death. To rapidly decay is a sign of questionable sanctity. So Tosetti stresses Calasanz’s body smelt of ‘fresh roses’, a crippled arm touching his feet was made whole and an apron torn in the crush to see him was miraculously repaired. Al this stuff is standard hagiography cliché. But Tosetti stresses one curious, unprintable ‘miracle’ (with a perfectly natural explanation) which was supposed to prove Calasanz’s modesty and chastity. This was clearly a concocted ‘miracle’ contrived by men who knew their order had a foul secret to bury and urgently needed pious propaganda to aid them.

It will be interesting to see how Rome rehabilitates the clerics and saints like Calasanz that it has today when their time comes and things come to light.


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