Alleged Sex Abuser Back at Vatican Bank

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by Paul Murano  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 16, 2020   

Accused of sexual predation, financial impropriety

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) – An Argentine bishop, suspended after allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians in his home diocese, has quietly returned to work at the Vatican Bank.

Though facing trial over sex abuse accusations, Bp. Gustavo Zanchetta, former head of the diocese of Orán, is back at work as assessor for the Vatican Bank — a position created especially for him by Pope Francis.

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Bp. Gustavo Zanchetta

In June 2019, Zanchetta was publicly accused of sexually abusing two seminarians in 2016–2017. He was charged with "aggravated continuous sexual abuse committed by a minister of a religious organization," and could be facing several years in prison. 

In addition to charges of sexual abuse, a secret raid of diocesan files conducted by Argentine officials uncovered financial wrongdoing, netting Zanchetta additional charges of financial misconduct and defrauding the state. The bishop is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government for restoration of his rectory, as well as for a series of lectures at Orán's seminary that never took place.

A protégé of Pope Francis, Zanchetta served as bishop of Orán from 2013–2017, working closely with then-Abp. Jorge Mario Bergoglio (currently Pope Francis) in the Argentine bishops' conference. After the sex abuse allegations surfaced against him, Zanchetta resigned, ostensibly for reasons of health. Soon after, he was transferred by Pope Francis to Rome. Zanchetta was appointed by Francis in 2017 to work at the Vatican's central bank in an "assessor" position, a job created specifically for the Argentine bishop.

The Vatican acknowledged the bishop had been under investigation but claimed it was unaware of accusations of sexual abuse against Zanchetta at the time he resigned from the Orán diocese.

The first formal allegations against Zanchetta came in 2015, when a diocesan secretary found pornographic images on his telephone. He was suspended from his Vatican post in January 2019 after being formally accused of sexually abusing two seminarians.

The Vatican acknowledged the bishop had been under investigation but claimed it was unaware of accusations of sexual abuse against Zanchetta at the time he resigned from the Orán diocese.

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"At the time of his resignation, there had been accusations of authoritarianism against him but no accusations of sexual abuse," a Holy See spokesman claimed.

Zanchetta had been banned from travel after being formally charged in June 2019 by Argentine authorities.

Since the suspension, Zanchetta has been going back and forth between Argentina and Rome, presenting himself to the judge whenever called upon. Sources have confirmed the civil trial for Zanchetta was originally scheduled for the first half of 2020, but Argentina's justice system virtually shut down due to the Wuhan pandemic. It is presently unclear when the trial will take place. After two-months of pandemic lockdown at the Vatican, it has now resumed its normal activities — with Zanchetta, who quietly flew to Rome, back at his post at the Vatican central bank.

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Matteo Bruni

Zanchetta had been banned from travel after being formally charged in June 2019 by Argentine authorities; however, Judge Claudio Alejandro Parisi of Salta, allegedly under pressure from the Holy See, reversed Zanchetta's travel ban and allowed the bishop to travel to the Vatican — provided he returned to Argentina for his trial. According to Crux, Judge Claudio Parisi gave the final green light for Zanchetta's return, saying the alleged predator prelate had "collaborated with the justice system."

Despite the ongoing nature of his trial, the director of the Holy See press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that "while naturally remaining available to the Argentine judicial authorities, [Bp.] 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 for abuse by the Vatican. However, when there's an ongoing civil process, the Vatican rarely discloses the results of its own investigations into sexual abuse allegations.

In the Archdiocese of Salta, the metropolitan see of Orán, sources have said they have sent all their information to Rome, and the case is now out of their jurisdiction.

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