Argentinian Catholic bishop found guilty of sexual abuse and sentenced to prison

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BUENOS AIRES, March 4 (Reuters) – A Catholic bishop accused of sexually abusing young men studying to become priests was found guilty by a court in northern Argentina on Friday, capping more than a week of often explicit testimony in the latest case of criminal abuse to hit the global church.

Gustavo Zanchetta, the former bishop of Oran in the northern province of Salta, was sentenced to 4½ years in prison for the crimes, according to a court statement.

Zanchetta had denied all charges in the criminal trial, as well as a separate investigation into Vatican canon law, insisting he had “a good and healthy relationship” with all the seminarians, according to trial summaries at camera provided by the local justice. Read more

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He has also worked for the Church of Rome, which in 2017 was asked to help run the Heritage Administration of the Vatican Apostolic See, a financial and accounting office that also manages its properties in Italy.

Summaries of testimony provided by the court included witnesses describing unwanted touching and sexual advances by the bishop and requests for massages, as well as gifts he gave to seminarians he was supposed to favor.

Other witnesses testified to the discovery of pornography on the Bishop’s phone as well as a history of visiting pornographic websites on a church computer he was using. Read more

In interactions with seminarians and priests, Zanchetta reportedly emphasized his close friendship with Pope Francis, a fellow Argentine and first Latin American pope, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires before his election as pontiff in 2013.

Three priests first accused Zanchetta of sexually abusing seminarians, as well as abuse of power and financial mismanagement, in 2018, which they say happened at the seminary in Oran that the bishop founded a few years earlier.

A local prosecutor called for Zanchetta’s arrest the following year, but the case drags on amid legal delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Vatican investigation.

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Reporting by Agustin Giest; Written by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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