ROME – Argentinian Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta was found guilty by an Argentinian court and sentenced to four years and six months of effective imprisonment for aggravated continuous sexual abuse of two former seminarians.
His immediate detention was ordered by the court in Oran, Salta, on Friday morning local time.
“We cannot determine the extent of the damage suffered by the victims, but we do have the obligation to give them an answer from justice and give an answer to society,” said prosecutor Pablo Rivero on Thursday, before requesting the conviction and immediate detention.
Zanchetta, the former bishop of the diocese of Oran, in northern Argentina, would boast of his friendship with Pope Francis, who believed the bishop’s claim he was being set up when the allegations were first made against him.
Zanchetta was made a bishop and appointed to Oran by Francis in 2013. He resigned at the age of 53 in 2017, claiming “health reasons.” A few months later, Francis named him Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which administers the Vatican’s financial portfolio.
In 2018, it became public that Zanchetta had been accused of both sexual misconduct and financial wrongdoing, although a Vatican spokesman insisted there were no abuse allegations at the time Zanchetta was brought to Rome.
In an interview in 2019, Francis explained the case in his own words: “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.”
The accusation involved the bishop’s phone, which contained homosexual pornography and explicit sexual images of Zanchetta.
“The defense is that he had his phone hacked, and he made a good defense,” the pope said, adding that it created enough doubt, so Francis told Zanchetta to go back.
“Evidently he had, some say, despotic treatment of others – he was bossy,” and had a “not completely clear dealing of finances,” though as the pope noted, this hadn’t been proven.
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