BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) —The general director of an elite school founded by the Marist Brothers in Argentina has admitted he sexually abused a student 38 years ago, an official for the order said Thursday.
Gonzalo Santa Coloma, the order’s official for protecting children in Buenos Aires province, told The Associated Press that Brother Angel Duples acknowledged the abuse after the order began an investigation following a report by a former student who had talked with the victim.
At the time of the abuse, Duples was a lay brother working at a branch of the Champagnat school on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. He has been director of the school’s main branch in downtown Buenos Aires over the past decade.
“I asked him: Did this really happen or is it just another tale? And he told me that it had happened, that there was fondling,” Santa Coloma said in recounting a conversation he had with Duples.
“He realizes the seriousness of this issue and the evil that he might have done,” the official said, adding that Duples asked to be removed from his duties at the school.
Santa Coloma declined to let AP contact Duples, saying he is “depressed and medicated” and has been sent to a nursing home owned by the Marist Brothers where he has no contact with children.
The official said that the victim has not filed a lawsuit and that Duples has not been charged. A spokesman for Santa Coloma said earlier that Duples does not have an attorney.
Santa Coloma said the abuse took place during a camping trip when Duples was in his 20s.
“At that time, there wasn’t much conscience about all of this. The brothers would go camping and sleep with the students in the tents,” Santa Coloma said. “The victim woke up and found brother Angel’s hand near his genitals.... he turned around, closed his sleeping bag and went to sleep again.”
Santa Coloma said the school is searching for a new director.
The case is the latest in a series of church sex-abuse scandals in Pope Francis’ native Argentina.
Two priests and three other men were arrested last year and charged with sexually abusing about 20 students at the Antonio Provolo Institute, a school for the hearing impaired. One of the priests had previously been accused of abusing students at Provolo’s school in Verona, Italy, and was even identified to Francis as an abuser in a letter in 2014, but no action was taken against him by the Vatican.
In recent months, allegations have been made about clerical abuse committed decades ago at the Cardinal Newman school, which has educated President Mauricio Macri and many other members of Argentina’s elite. That case arose after a former student decided to break his long silence about abuse, leading several others to come forward with their own charges.
Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao contributed to this report.