Argentine bishop accused of sexual misconduct returns to work at Vatican central bank

Argentine bishop accused of sexual misconduct returns to work at Vatican central bank

In this handout photo provided by Salta's government Judicial Branch Press Office, Argentine bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, second from left, a cleric close to Pope Francis, appears alongside his lawyer, Javier Belda Iniesta, at a judicial hearing in Oran, the northwestern province of Salta, Argentina, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Zanchetta was notified by members of the court that he will be put on trial for alleged abuses against two former seminarians. (Credit: Salta's government Judicial Branch Press Office via AP.)

As the Vatican resumed its activities after the two-month COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, Crux has confirmed an Argentinian bishop suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians quietly went back to work.

ROSARIO, Argentina – As the Vatican resumed its activities after the two-month COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, Crux has confirmed an Argentinian bishop suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians quietly went back to work.

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta was appointed by Francis to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which functions as the Vatican’s central bank, in 2017, where he works as an “assessor,” a position created for the Argentine.

Zanchetta served as Bishop of Oran from 2013 until July 2017, when he resigned alleging health reasons. Soon after, he was transferred by Francis to Rome.

The bishop had worked closely with the pope when then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio headed the Argentine bishops conference, and Zanchetta was one of Francis’s first episcopal appointments after being elected to the papacy.

The bishop was suspended from his Vatican post Jan. 4, 2019 after reports he had sexually abused seminarians and had homosexual pornography on his phone. The allegations against Zanchetta do not involve minors.

At the time, the Vatican acknowledged the bishop was under investigation, but said it had been unaware of accusations of sexual abuse against Zanchetta at the time of his resignation from the Diocese of Oran.

“The reason for his resignation is connected to his troubles handling the relationships with the diocesan clergy and with very tense relationships with the diocese priests,” the Vatican said at the time. “At the time of his resignation, there had been accusations of authoritarianism against him but no accusations of sexual abuse.”

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In a TV interview in 2019 the pope acknowledged that he did so after having accepted his resignation due to the bishop’s “despotic” behavior.

In Argentina, Zanchetta is facing charges of defrauding the state and “aggravated continuous sexual abuse,” with two former seminarians having filed a criminal complaint against him.

Public records show that Zanchetta received over one million pesos, close to $250,000 at the time, from the provincial government for the restoration of a parish rectory and for a series of lectures in the local seminary that never took place.

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Since the suspension, Zanchetta has been going back and forth between Argentina and Rome, presenting himself in front of the judge whenever he was called, but then heading back to the Eternal City. Sources told Crux that the civil trial was originally scheduled for the first half of 2020, but with Argentina’s entire justice system virtually closed due to the pandemic, it’s unclear when it will take place.

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Crux learned that this month, Zanchetta has returned to his work at APSA, despite the ongoing trial.

The director of the Holy See press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed to Crux that “while naturally remaining available to the Argentine judicial authorities, [Bishop] Zanchetta was able to resume his service which does not interfere in any way with the investigations.”

According to Pope Francis, Zanchetta was also investigated by the Vatican. However, when there’s an ongoing civil process the Vatican rarely discloses the result of its own investigations into sexual abuse allegations. In the Archdiocese of Salta, metropolitan see of Oran, sources have told Crux that they’ve sent all the information to Rome, but the case is now out of their jurisdiction.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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