Argentine bishop accused of sexual misconduct allowed by judge to return to Rome

Argentine bishop accused of sexual misconduct allowed by judge to return to Rome

Argentine bishop accused of sexual misconduct allowed by judge to return to Rome

In this Aug. 26, 2016 photo, former Bishop of Oran Gustavo Zanchetta participates in negotiations with border workers in Oran, Salta, Argentina. In August 2017, Pope Francis accepted Zanchetta's resignation after priests in the remote northern Argentine diocese of Oran rebelled under his authoritarian rule and sent reports to the Vatican embassy in May or June of 2017 alleging abuse of power and sexual abuses with adult seminarians, the former vicar said. (Credit: AP Photo/Javier Corbalan.)

Despite the opposition from prosecutors in Argentina and the fact that he’s been suspended from his position at the Vatican, an Argentine bishop who’s been accused by two seminarians of sexual abuse was allowed by a judge to leave the country on Friday.

ROME – Despite the opposition from prosecutors in Argentina and the fact that he’s been suspended from his position at the Vatican, an Argentine bishop who’s been accused by two seminarians of sexual abuse was allowed by a judge to leave the country on Friday.

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, former prelate of the Diocese of Oran was officially charged in an Argentinian court earlier this month, and on June 6 a judge had forbidden him from leaving the country. However, Judge Claudio Alejandro Parisi authorized the trip to Rome.

Zanchetta must be back in the province of Salta on August 8, when he’s expected to testify. His criminal defense lawyer, Enzo Gianotti, asked for the court to lift the restrictive measures that had been imposed on the bishop and for his documents – including his passport – to be returned.

According to Argentine newspaper El Tribuno, the defense counsel requested Zanchetta be allowed to return to the Vatican on the grounds that the bishop, who’s also being investigated by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had to attend “the initial hearing, and the psychological and psychiatric evaluations.”

The Vatican’s ad interim spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, confirmed to Crux that Zahnchetta continues to be “suspended” from his work in Rome.

On Friday, the judge ruled that he couldn’t revoke the measures he had imposed on the bishop because this would “affect the purposes of the criminal proceedings,” and said that he believed the “requirements are not met” to grant the prelate freedom.

However, he decided to allow Zanchetta to travel to Rome for “work-related” reasons, despite the fact the bishop was suspended from his Vatican job Jan. 4 after allegations against him were made public.

The judge’s decision is particularly puzzling seeing that Argentina and the Holy See have no extradition agreement.

Zanchetta was accused of “strange behavior” in 2015 when a diocesan secretary found pornographic pictures on the prelate’s phone. The images included gay porn featuring young men, but not minors, as well as images of the bishop touching himself. They were allegedly sent to unknown third parties.

Two years later, the bishop resigned from the diocese without explanation, but Francis appointed him to a newly created position at the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which serves as a central bank for the Vatican and oversees its financial holdings.

On June 7, the the bishop was charged with “aggravated continuous sexual abuse committed by a minister of a religious organization,” and if found guilty, he could face 3 to 10 years in prison.

In a recent interview with a Mexican news station, Francis revealed that Zanchetta is also facing a trial in the Vatican. If he’s found guilty of abusing minors – or vulnerable adults – he could be removed from the priesthood.

“Before I asked for his resignation, there was an accusation, and I immediately made him come over with the person who accused him and explain it,” Francis told Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.

According to Francis, Zanchetta argued that his phone had been hacked, and the pope believed him, so he sent the bishop back to Oran.

“The clergy didn’t feel well treated by him,” Francis said. “They complained until they made an allegation as a body to the Nunciature,” the Vatican’s embassy in Argentina.

The pope says that he then called the nuncio, who told him that the allegation of mistreatment was “serious,” and the pope understood it to be a case of “abuse of power.” So, he sent Zanchetta to Spain to receive psychological treatment and asked him to resign from the Diocese of Oran.

Once he had a replacement for the bishop, the pontiff said, he opened the investigation into the allegations against Zanchetta. He received the result of the investigation over a month ago, “and I decided that it’s necessary to have a trial. So, I gave it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Editor’s note: this story has been updated to reflect the Vatican’s response to Crux’s inquiry.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma


Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.

Latest Stories

Most Read

Crux needs your monthly support

to keep delivering the best in smart, wired and independent Catholic news.

Latest Stories