It may seem paradoxical, but even this sort of thing happens in Italy.
In the days when American associations of the victims of the clergy pedophile crisis endeavor to bring the Pope, who has fought the phenomenon more than anyone else, before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, there are those in Trieste who accuse the Church of being too harsh, too concerned about the protection of children and not merciful enough with pedophiles.
The story concerns a local festival dedicated to children, which was held last week, organized by the "Onlus Good Practices" Association and sponsored by ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, Italy's local health authority) and the municipality of Trieste.
Among the proponents of the initiative was Sandro Moncini, now seventy years old, whose court case came under the news spotlight in 1988.
Arrested in the U.S. for distributing child pornography, the man, at the time, was a well known businessman in the city, formerly affiliated with P2 (an Italian Masonic lodge) and President of the Automobile Club.
He was framed by an FBI agent who recorded dozens of telephone calls while pretending to belong to an international pedophile network.
"What can I do to this little animal? Can I chain her, whip her?"
According to American police, Moncini had asked this question by phone before going to New York where he had booked two rooms at a hotel in the city, and had asked for a ten year old Mexican girl whom he could torture, perhaps even to the point of death.
The entrepreneur would defend himself by saying that those chilling telephone inquiries were only "a fantasy" and not a prelude to a real encounter.
Handcuffed at JFK Airport, he was sentenced to one year in prison for having pornographic material involving minors, sent from Italy to the United States.
He would serve 293 days in jail and return to Trieste on early parole. U.S. Judge Ronald Lew had been very impressed by the dozens of letters he received from various dignitaries of Trieste, from the then Regional Vice-President to the Public Prosecutor's Office, from the co-director of a large insurance company to a town councilor.
Even the Bishop at the time, Lorenzo Bellomi, was asked to give assurance in writing of Moncini's good name, although he would later regret having sent the letter and publicly apologized.
With the decline in media attention on the case, for ten years the entrepreneur has been actively working with the Community of San Martino al Campo, a volunteer assistance program led by Don Mario Vatta, and takes care of the homeless in the city.
The priest has affirmed that Moncini has changed and is no longer the man with the terrible "fantasies."
But despite no longer running into problems with the law for affairs like the one in New York, some parents reported his presence at a children's party, and so one of the pastors in the area, Don Ettore Malnati, Vicar of Culture for the Diocese of Trieste and a close collaborator of Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, notified the municipal authorities.
When the newspaper "Il Piccolo", asked him to comment on the matter, he said he was "shocked and perplexed" by Moncini's involvement in the event.
The priest recognized that "it is necessary to offer the chance for redemption and recovery," but without going as far as entrusting the individuals who have been involved in such scandals with roles "in educational and recreational projects where there are children involved."
Don Malnati's intervention has raised various criticisms. Loredana Catalfamo, President of "Onlus Good Practices," said the priest should have been more merciful, while one of the Catholic leaders of the Democratic Party of Trieste, Ettore Rosato, assured that he was on holiday with the kids in the community frequented by Moncini.
He explained that in his view, behind the controversy there is actually a clerical attack on the new Center-Leftist administration and even a "rupture" in the local church.
It is no secret that in two years since his arrival in Trieste, after a long service to the Holy See, Bishop Crepaldi, by redistributing diocesan assignments, has caused some discontent among a small group of priests who until then had managed the Curia.
But the bishop wants to nip any conspiracy theory in the bud.
He has supported and defended Don Malnati and reiterated in a statement that "Mr. Moncini's path of recovery through his dedication to the poor and marginalized of the city is commendable and is to be encouraged. All this, however, does not affect the reasons for the inappropriateness of his involvement in a children's party. These reasons are clearly shared by those who have calmness of discernment and a little common sense."