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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Vatican appeals court yesterday convicted a priest of sexually abusing a fellow student while they were both attending a pre-seminary school within the confines of the ecclesiastical city-state.
Father Gabriele Martinelli was found guilty of corrupting a minor and sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment, plus a 1,000 euro ($1,090) fine. An acquittal in 2021 had prompted the appeal.
The litigation, which began more than four years ago, was the first concerning sexual abuse of minors that occurred within Vatican City limits.
In 2021, Pope Francis ordered the school where the alleged abuse occurred, the Saint Pius X Pre-Seminary, to be moved from its location within the Vatican Gardens to a spot outside Vatican City.
The minor seminary trains young men as altar servers for papal Masses.
The now-31-year-old priest was originally put on trial for having forced another student to have sex sometime between 2007 and 2012, when they were both enrolled at the school. The accuser, known as L.G. in court records, was 13 years old when the alleged sexual abuse began. L.G., who was one year younger than Martinelli at the time, accused him of using violence and threats.
The Vatican court ruled in October 2021 that Martinelli could not be punished for allegations that occurred while he himself was a minor. Regarding allegations occurring after his 16th birthday, the court ruled that it was not able to ascertain that the allegations had been coerced.
But the appeals court stated on Tuesday that, although there was no proof of coercion, the priest could still be found guilty of "corruption of minors" for abuse that took place when Martinelli was an adult and L.G. was a minor.
Martinelli has consistently denied the allegations.
Church Militant has reported extensively on the case and the scandals that have surrounded the school.
One 2021 report cited the testimony given by L.G.'s roommate, Kamil Jarzembowski, at the time of the alleged abuse. According to the roommate,
I saw violence, mainly through blackmail and abuse of power by Gabriele Martinelli, and it was terrifying seeing these things because at the time I was 15. I had never seen two people having sex, and yet I was forced to watch these things inside the Vatican. Psychologically, it was pretty tough to take because I came to the Vatican to serve the Church. I was a strong believer.
Jarzembowski claimed he had reported Martinelli's alleged abuse of L.G. and other students for years, only to find his letters unaddressed by a list of Vatican and other Church officials. Frustrated by the ongoing suppression of his testimony, Jarzembowski claimed he saw no choice but to go public. Only then — once the Italian media began reporting on the case — did the Vatican launch an investigation.
The school was not only plagued by accusations of a seminarian sexually violating other seminarians, but also accusations against priests.
In 2019, Church Militant reported on accusations by three men claiming they were sexually abused while they were students at St. Pius X. 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 Guardian also reported on these accusations in 2019, writing, "The victims ... came together a few years ago to share their stories. ... The three claimed that a fourth former altar boy suffered worse sexual abuse than they did, but ... he refused to talk."
Vatican whistleblower Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal nuncio to the United States, noted how various Vatican officials quashed inquiry into the immoral and scandalous goings-on at the seminary, punishing everybody but the perpetrator.
The former rector of the pre-seminary, Fr. Enrico Radice, who allegedly covered up the abuse for years, was cleared in 2021 due to the statute of limitations having expired.