On Sunday, Italian investigative news program "Le Iene" reported that three men have stepped forward alleging that they were sexually abused at St. Pius X — inside Vatican walls — where young men are trained as altar servers for the Pope.
The men allege that between the ages of 10 and 14, while serving as Vatican altar boys in the 1990s, they were groped and fondled by two unnamed priests.
The revelations come just two months after the Holy See announced that the Vatican City State prosecutor was seeking to indict Fr. Gabriele Martinelli and Fr. Enrico Radice on charges relating to sexual abuse — a case Le Iene first reported on in 2017.
Martinelli is accused of assaulting minors during his time as a seminarian at St. Pius X. Radice, former rector of the seminary, is accused of "aiding and abetting" the abuse.
In 2012, seminarian Kamil Jarzembowski warned his superiors that Martinelli was a sexual predator. The senior seminarian, Jarzembowski said, had been raping his roommate, and others, for years.
After officials at St. Pius X failed to act, Jarzembowski wrote to various cardinals to enlist their help. After they too offered no response, in 2014, he wrote directly to Pope Francis, appealing for aid.
A preliminary investigation was entrusted to Fr. Andrea Stabellini, judicial vicar for the diocese of Como. According to Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, Stabellini found evidence that warranted further investigation, but Vatican officials quashed the inquiry and punished those involved:
The Bishop of Como removed Don Stabellini from the post of Judicial Vicar; the whistleblower, the seminarian Kamil Jarzembowski, was expelled from the seminary; the two fellow seminarians who had joined him in the denunciation left the seminary; and the alleged abuser, Gabriele Martinelli, was ordained priest in July 2017.
Though "well aware" of the allegations against Martinelli, Viganò noted, "the pope and many prelates in the Curia" refused to allow "an open and thorough investigation."
"An objective observer cannot help but suspect that horrible deeds are being covered up," he said.
Frustrated by the ongoing suppression of his testimony, Jarzembowski went public. Only then — once Italian media began reporting on the case — did the Vatican launch an investigation into the Martinelli case.
According to the Holy See's announcement of the prosecution, at the time the inquiry was opened in November 2017, Vatican City State law would not allow a trial, as the case fell outside the statute of limitations. Martinelli's indictment is now moving forward after Pope Francis issued a special provision on June 29.
Le Iene reporter Gaetano Pecoraro explained that he and his team decided to push forward with their investigative work after Martinelli's case was uncovered.
"We decided to keep digging as we had the feeling that the previous cases were not isolated," he said. "There were more victims and more priests involved in sexual abuse within the Vatican."
In 2017, Church officials responded to Pecoraro's exposé by threatening to sue.