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Bishop Zanchetta, promoted by Pope Francis, convicted of abuse

March 04, 2022

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, the Argentine prelate who was brought to Rome by Pope Francis after being charged with sexual abuse, has been convicted in an Argentine court.

Bishop Zanchetta was found guilty of abusing seminarians in the Oran diocese, and sentenced to serve a four-and-one-half year prison term.

After a trial that spanned three weeks, Bishop Zanchetta was found guilty of molesting seminarians both at the diocesan seminary and at his own residence. Witnesses testified that he had also shared pornographic images by cell phone, and pressured seminarians to engage in inappropriate physical contact. The bishop had pleaded not-guilty to the charges.

Bishop Zanchetta was appointed to head Oran diocese by Pope Francis in July 2013: one of the first episcopal appointments by the newly installed Pontiff. The Pope was well acquainted with Zanchetta, who had worked for the Argentine bishops’ conference while the future Pontiff was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

In 2017, Bishop Zanchetta resigned his post in Orans. He listed health concerns as the reason for stepping down, although at the age of 53 he had shown no signs of ill health. But media sources in Argentina later revealed that he had been accused of sexual abuse. The former vicar general of the diocese eventually revealed that the abuse charges had been relayed to Rome as early as 2015, and when more charges were made in 2017—along with complaints about mismanagement of the diocese—he was encouraged to resign.

Shortly after that resignation, Pope Francis brought Zanchetta to the Vatican, creating a post for him at the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the agency that handles Vatican finances. The Pope has said that he was convinced that Bishop Zanchetta was innocent of the abuse charges—dismissing the testimony that had been presented by several Oran priests.

Authorities in Argentina opened a criminal investigation into the abuse complaints in 2019, and Bishop Zanchetta returned to his native country last year to face charges. The trial was scheduled to take place last October, but was delayed because prosecutors were hoping to receive documents from the Vatican concerning his case. Although formal directives from the Vatican require cooperation with civil authorities in abuse cases, those documents apparently never arrived.

Just last month, a report from the Munich archdiocese focused international media attention on the failures of Pope-emeritus Benedict to take action against abusive priests—although there is no evidence that the former Pontiff protected abusers or covered up evidence. The Zanchetta case raises far more serious complaints against Pope Francis, who protected and promoted the accused bishop long after credible accusations had been reported.

 


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: rfr46 - Mar. 07, 2022 3:53 AM ET USA

    I do not believe PF for a minute. No one is that stupid, and his other appointments show a pattern. Was this a case of getting this pervert out of town and hoping that the affair would blow over?

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Mar. 04, 2022 9:50 PM ET USA

    Anyone expect Francis to beg forgiveness from (or at least apologize to) the Oran priests he implicitly called liars? I, for one, am not holding my breath.

  • Posted by: JIMandEM - Mar. 04, 2022 6:29 PM ET USA

    "The Pope has said that he was convinced that Bishop Zanchetta was innocent of the abuse charges- dismissing the testimony that had been presented by several Oran priests". Well, was Francis speaking "FROM THE CHAIR", "INFALLIBLY"? I believe the several Oran priests.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 04, 2022 1:46 PM ET USA

    It's safe to say that Francis doesn't have the gift of Prudence in making appointments. And it's hard to say if he fully realizes the gravity of scandals that he is causing. Reports about bishop Zanchetta's moral corruption have been made public for a number of years.