Photo Credits: Daily Beast
Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta says he will return voluntarily to Argentina to respond to prosecutors’ accusations of sex abuse. His cannon lawyer, Javier Belda Iniesta, issued a statement that the monsignor would arrive in Argentina on Tuesday and would fully cooperate with authorities.
Five months ago, Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta was accused of sexually abusing two seminaries and criminally charged. A criminal prosecutor in Argentina has requested the arrest of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta because, as El Tribuno newspaper reports, the bishop has not responded to repeated telephone calls or emails to the contact information provided by his defense counsel.
A prosecutor of sexual crimes in Orán, María Soledad Filtrín Cuezzo, had opposed allowing Zanchetta to leave the country, according to El Tribuno, but the bishop was permitted to leave after he presented a document showing that he is employed within Vatican City. The attorney’s statement Saturday said the bishop has been at the “residence indicated to judicial authorities.” That appeared to confirm that Zanchetta has been lodging at the same Vatican hotel, the Santa Marta, at which the pope stays.
Zanchetta is alleged to have sent sexually explicit selfies from his cell phone, harassed seminarians, and mismanaged the finances of the Diocese of Oran, which he led from 2014 to 2017. His inappropriate behavior with seminarians allegedly included entering their rooms at night, requesting massages from them, waking up seminarians in the morning, sitting on their beds, drinking alcohol with them, and favoring the more attractive young men.
The problem is that this case is particularly grave for Francis. The pope was aware of allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by his onetime protégé in 2015 two years before Zanchetta resigned as bishop of Oran.
As the Associated Press reports, Francis acknowledged in a TV interview earlier this year that he asked Zanchetta about the initial accusation, involving nude selfies on the bishop’s cellphone. The pope said he gave Zanchetta the benefit of the doubt after he claimed his phone had been hacked and dismissed the charges. Francis allowed him to step down in 2017 for “health reasons,” but then named him to a senior Vatican administration position a few months later.
Fr. Juan José Manzano, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Orán, claims that he reported Zanchetta in 2015, after the pornographic images were found on his phone. Manzano says he also reported him again in 2017. Yet the Vatican has stated twice that officials did not know about Zanchetta’s misdeeds until 2018.