He served in his first parish for 20 years before it was discovered that he had been sexually abusing children. He was then quietly transferred to another parish. The Provincial, Fr Andrea,26 wrote to the Superior General, saying that, although the change had caused some surprise, ‘he was glad to say’ that it was received quietly enough. He stated that the fact that it occurred at decree time, a time when changes in staff would have been common, made it less conspicuous. Fr Santino was not happy with the transfer and wrote a letter of complaint to the Provincial who noted in a letter to the Superior General that: The curious thing I note is that his compassion is merely for himself. He does not seem to realise the injury inflicted upon his victims and the consequences to them of his conduct. To me, at all events, this aspect of the affair is the most dreadful.
The Superior General agreed, and suggested that in Fr Andrea’s reply to Fr Santino he should stress the need for Fr Santino to pray that, The persons to whom he has done such great harm will not carry its ill effects for their entire lives. This exchange shows how both the Provincial and the Superior General were acutely conscious of and apologetic for the hurt and pain caused to those who suffered abuse at the hands of Fr Santino.
The Superior General wrote to Fr Santino forbidding him to leave Ireland. Fr Arturo, in another letter to his Superior in Rome, set out his concern more specifically: Most Reverend and very dear Father General, Fr Santino’s trouble is homosexuality. When I became Provincial, my predecessor Fr Andrea, thought it his duty to let me know that for 15 years (on and off I suppose) Fr Santino had been corrupting boys in [parish]. It was known to various people, but none dared come forward and report it. Fr Andrea, as soon as he knew about it, removed Fr Santino immediately to [another parish]. But the same thing began to occur again at [this parish]. Fr Calvino32 telephoned me urgently one evening, and I went straight down to [the parish] and sent Fr Santino immediately to Ireland; there was danger of prosecution by the police – this offence being a criminal one in England. I interviewed Fr Santino, and suggested to him that the only thing for him to do was to retire into some place like Mount Melleray and do penance. This he did. He seems incredibly unaware of the gravity of the whole position. Fr Lanzo tells me that when Fr Calvino was appointed rector of [the parish], Fr Santino wrote an indignant letter to the Provincial, to Fr General and to the General’s monitor, complaining that after all his years of faithful service, he had been passed over for a rectorship!! Also Fr Lanzo tells me that during these last years he has frequently written to [former parish] people, and they have been to see him at Melleray. Fr Lanzo has imagination, I know, but there is probably foundation for what he says. I remember too in my last interview with him eight years ago that he blamed Fr Andrea for his troubles, because Fr Andrea had always been hostile to him. And from my last letter (which you apparently had not received when you write to me) he is actually expecting to be allowed to return to [former parish] for a visit – oblivious of the fact that for a certain number of people in [former parish], he is a completely disgraced person. Fr Santino tells me in the letter he wrote asking permission to come that he is translating some writings of the Founder with a view to publication. I think it would be a disaster to have any writing of Fr Founder’s published over Fr Santino’s name.