ROME – A former judge of the Roman Rota, the Vatican’s highest appellate court, has accepted a plea bargain in an Italian criminal court for a conditionally suspended sentence of one year and two months in prison on charges of sexual molestation and possession of child pornography.
Based on reports in the Italian media, 55-year-old Monsignor Pietro Amenta was detained by police after an incident in March 2017, in which Amenta allegedly fondled the genitals of a young but over-age Romanian man in a Roman market. The man reportedly then followed Amenta and summoned police, who took Amenta into custody.
An investigation later discovered roughly 80 pornographic images on Amenta’s personal computer, some involving minors, leading to a second charge in the case.
Amenta resigned his position from the Rota last week, according to a Vatican spokesperson.
According to reports, Amenta has previously faced charges of obscenity in 1991 and sexual molestation in 2004, though neither of those charges led to convictions. In 2013, Amenta himself made a complaint to police of being robbed by two transsexuals.
The Feb. 14 conviction in the Amenta case came just two weeks after the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Gian Piero Milone, revealed that other such investigations are also underway and said that the Vatican is “determined” to prosecute such crimes.
“The inquiries underway are in their preliminary phase, and are conducted conscientiously, with the greatest discretion, out of respect for all the persons involved,” Milone said.
Amenta’s sentence from the Tribunal of Rome does not rule out the possibility that he could also face either criminal charges or canonical sanctions before a Church court.
The outcome in the Amenta case comes at a time when Vatican prosecutors are also looking into charges against Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, a former official of the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., who faces charges in Canada after allegedly using a computer in Windsor to download and distribute pornographic material, including child pornography.
The charges against Capella were relayed to the Vatican embassy in Washington by the U.S. State Department, and Capella was recalled to Rome to face a Vatican criminal probe. According to reports, he’s currently living under a form of house arrest at the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, the same location where Archbishop Józef Wesołowski, another Vatican diplomat, died in 2015 after facing charges of child abuse during as assignment in the Dominican Republic.
Amenta is one of 22 “auditors,” or judges, of the Roman Rota, and was appointed to the position by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in 2012. Though the Rota can hear disputes involving any aspect of Church law, the majority of its caseload is devoted to annulment procedures from around the world.
Prior to his current assignment, Amenta had served as a lawyer in Italian ecclesiastical tribunals, as a university professor of Church law, and as a judge in the tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome for several years.
From 1996 to 2012, Amenta also served as an official of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
“Those were 15 years in which I was able to come to know the unique and complex world of the Roman Curia, and where I was able to learn the practice of the law,” Amenta said in a 2013 interview.