Former Argentine bishop close to Francis sentenced in abuse case

bishop sentenced in abuse case

A court in Argentina has sentenced a Catholic bishop, well known to Pope Francis, to a jail term in an abuse case involving two young seminarians.

Gustavo Zanchetta, former bishop of Orán in Argentina, was detained immediately and is now serving four and a half years in prison.

Zanchetta denied all charges in the criminal trial, as well as in a separate Vatican investigation. He said he is victim of revenge by priests in Orán with whom he had differences.

Prosecutor María Soledad Filtrín Cuezzo told the court on Thursday that investigators had established the truthfulness of witnesses against the bishop, citing their internal logic, context and precise details.

The ruling is a major blow to Pope Francis, who knew him well, had appointed him bishop and defended him following initial allegations.

“This is a stunning ruling from the pope’s homeland. It’s a sign that even where the Catholic Church wields power, civil societies increasingly will not tolerate sexual abuse of young adults by powerful figures,” said, a US-based abuse tracking group.

According to Argentinian newspaper El Tribuno, problems surfaced in 2015 when a church official discovered sexually explicit images sent and received on Zanchetta’s mobile phone.

Then in 2016, five priests made a formal accusation before church authorities. They accused Zanchetta of authoritarianism, financial mismanagement and sexual abuse at a seminary.

Zanchetta stepped down in 2017, claiming “health reasons.” Pope Francis removed him to the Vatican and gave him a job in the treasury that manages the Holy See’s investments and assets.

Argentinian authorities investigated after allegations emerged publicly in 2019, and Zanchetta returned from Rome to face charges.

The Pope’s reluctance to act on allegations against Zanchetta has echoes of the 2018 scandal over a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse. Francis initially rejected the accusations before he eventually apologised to the victims.


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