An Argentine newspaper, El Tribuno, the first to break the Zanchetta case, published documents [Feb. 21] that show how bishops, the Cardinal Primate of Argentina, the Nuncio, the Vatican and the Pope personally since 2015 have been aware of the case of the bishop on whom today hangs a heavy accusation of abuse. The case in recent days has arrived in court, with the criminal complaint brought by victims of the former bishop of Oran. From the photographs of a 2016 report, signed by five priests, including three former diocesan vicars, it is clear that Gustavo Zanchetta was accused not only of having obscene homosexual sex on his cell phone, but of harassment of seminarians, of not having registered the sale of an important property of the diocese and of poor management of both finances and personnel in Oran.
From the report, which El Tribuno came into possession of (read the full article with the document signed by five religious), and from which it published the photos, it is clear that the diocese discovered at random photos of Zanchetta and other nudes, and in very explicit poses. The chancellor saw those photos while he was downloading onto a computer some institutional images from Zanchetta's cell phone, at his request. And from there he notified the authorities, primarily the Vicar General, and immediately after, Abp. Marcelo Colombo, the archbishop of Salta Mario Cargnello, the Primate Cardinal Poli, archbishop of Buenos Aires, the nunciature and the pontiff. In October 2015, Gustavo Zanchetta was urgently summoned to Rome; and everyone in the diocese assumed it was related to the Synod on the Family, given the close relations that linked him to Jorge Mario Bergoglio ever since the latter was cardinal and President of the Argentine Episcopal Conference. Zanchetta returned to Oran without anything happening: It's unknown what was said to the Pope, but some say that the bishop claimed the photos were rigged.
In 2016, as evidenced by the photographs of El Tribuno, three of his vicar generals and two monsignors presented a formal internal complaint to the nunciature, insisting on "strange behavior" of Zanchetta with the seminarians. He met them without the presence of the Rector, spent a night in their rooms with a flashlight, asked to massage them, went to their rooms at the time they had to get up, sat on their beds, encouraged them to drink alcohol and showed a certain preference for those who were "a little more graceful."
Not even this complaint had visible repercussions. Another followed, in 2017, when alleged cases of sexual abuse against seminarians began to emerge.
Zanchetta had to leave the diocese, but no ecclesiastical investigation followed, nor was he reported to law enforcement. Rather, Zanchetta landed in the Vatican, where the Pontiff created a role for him, until then nonexistent, assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. Thus he became second-in-command of the Vatican treasury, and took up residence in Casa Santa Marta, where the Pontiff is living.
In the city of San Ramon of the New Oran, on the 20th of April 2016 at 12, the Vicars General meet, Monsignor Gabriel Acevedo and Juan José Manzano, the Rector of the seminary of St. John XXIII, Fr. Martin Alarcon, Mons. Diego Pietro Calvisi, and Mgr. Andrés Buttu, to comply with the request of his Most Reverend Excellency Msgr. Paul Emile Tscherrig, Apostolic Nuncio of his Holiness in Argentina.
Thus begins the internal relationship of the five religious.
The document, written at the request of the Pope's representative in the country, Emile Tscherrig (seen in the photo of the signatures), is proof that the Vatican has known of accusations against Gustavo Zanchetta since 2016. But in statements by Alessandro Gisotti, spokesman for the Holy See Press Office, behind the high walls the "Zanchetta case" was known to them only a few months ago .
In the report, the five religious with senior officials say that on "Sept. 22, 2015," the secretary chancellor of the diocese, Luis Diaz, told them they had found "selfies" by Zanchetta on his cell phone, "naked and masturbating." He discovered these images by chance, when the ex-bishop asked him to download some photos of institutional activities, and they appeared as if sent by his cell phone. He also said he had found pornographic material that had been sent to him, and that it had not been erased from the phone's memory.
With these elements, the religious say they communicated with the former bishop of Oran, Marcelo Colombo, who sent them to the archbishop of Salta Mario Cargnello. "Noting the gravity of the situation, with Bp. Zanchetta, the Pope's personal friend, he decided (Cargnello, ed.) to get in touch with the Cardinal Primate of Argentina, Monsignor Mario Poli, and asked Father Gabriel to call the Nunciature to warn him that what was in the hands of the cardinal contained confidential information of a very serious nature on the Bishop of Oran," the letter states.
In October 2015, the then-bishop was summoned by the Pope. "We note that in no way are they photoshopped, as the bishop said on his return from Rome, because everything you see in the pictures — the sheets, and closet — are those of his room."
Diaz, who discovered Zanchetta's controversial selfies, in a signed and sealed letter also note that they were not faked. In that document, which was part of the first complaint, the former bishop thought he had the support of Pope Francis. According to Diaz, Zanchetta told him that in Rome they showed him [the pope] the photos but that "he did not care about this because he had strong shoulders to carry that weight and get away with it."
As reported by his then-secretary, the former bishop told him that "fortunately the images did not pass through the Nunciature, but went directly to Rome, where he had the personal support of Pope Francis and the Cardinal Primate," Mario Poli.
A second complaint, in 2017, was apparently accompanied by letters from seminarians. El Tribuno writes that Zanchetta would present himself again to his "spiritual father," Pope Francis: "He tells him, yes, Father, I am ill and I need treatment, I offer my resignation. The Pope tells him: We'll cure you, and it seems to me that you cannot govern anything. He went and resigned."
A month later he created the post for him of assessor for APSA [Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See]. Now Zanchetta — who a few days ago was in audience with the Pontiff — has been suspended from office, and the criminal complaint opens up new problematic scenarios from a diplomatic point of view.