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Bishop Twice-Reported to Pope For Sexual Misconduct Was Given Prominent Vatican Position

In a new report from the Associated Press (AP), it has been revealed that Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta of Argentina was promoted to the position of assessor in APSA — the department which manages the Vatican’s considerable real estate holdings — after he had already been reported twice to the Holy See for allegations of sexual misconduct.

According to the AP, the former vicar general of the northern Argentine diocese of Oran has gone on record saying that the Zanchetta, the former bishop of that diocese, had been reported to the Vatican in 2015 and again in 2017 for “obcene” behavior such as taking “naked selfies”. He was also accused of engaging in misconduct with seminarians.

The Vatican has claimed that allegations of sexual misconduct only came to light in 2018.

From the AP report:

The scandal over Zanchetta, 54, is the latest to implicate Francis as he and the Catholic hierarchy as a whole face an unprecedented crisis of confidence over their mishandling of cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors and misconduct with adults. Francis has summoned church leaders to a summit next month to chart the course forward for the universal church, but his own actions in individual cases are increasingly in the spotlight.

The pope’s decision to allow Zanchetta to resign quietly, and then promote him to a new No. 2 position in one of the Vatican’s most sensitive offices, has raised questions again about whether Francis turned a blind eye to the misconduct of his allies or dismissed allegations against them as ideological attacks.

Manzano, Zanchetta’s onetime vicar general, or top deputy, said he was one of the diocesan officials who raised the alarm about his boss in 2015 and sent the digital selfies to the Vatican.

In an interview with AP in the pews of his St. Cayetano parish in Oran, Manzano said he was one of the three current and former diocesan officials who made a second complaint to the Vatican’s embassy in Buenos Aires in May or June of 2017 “when the situation was much more serious, not just because there had been a question about sexual abuses, but because the diocese was increasingly heading into the abyss.”

“In 2015, we just sent a ‘digital support’ with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous,” he told AP in a follow-up email. “It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn’t intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta and he justified himself saying that his cellphone had been hacked, and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the pope.”

Zanchetta, who had been named by Pope Francis to lead the Oran diocese in 2013, is reported to have been close to Cardinal Bergoglio before he was elected to the papacy. Zanchetta served as executive undersecretary to the bishops’ conference of Argentina under Bergoglio’s leadership from 2005-2001. Bergoglio was also, according to Manzano, Zanchetta’s confessor, who treated the accused prelate as a “spiritual son.”

Francis named Zanchetta bishop despite objections that he was “authoritarian” in his position overseeing economic affairs in the diocese of Quilmes. At the time of his being named to head up the Oran diocese, there were no reported accusations of sexual impropriety.

An investigation was conducted after the 2015 report about his obscene photos, and Zanchetta was called to Rome by the pope. Manzano claims that he returned to the diocese “improved,” and the matter was not further pursued.

After more accusations of abuses of power and sexual misconduct were sent to Rome in 2017, the pope again called Zanchetta back. A month later, Zanchetta resigned as bishop of Oran, citing health concerns. He resurfaced in December of 2017 when it was announced that Francis had named him to the newly created position with APSA.

Manzano claims that the pope, too, is a victim of “manipulation” by Zanchetta, but he does not account for how Francis, who has adopted a policy of zero tolerance, could continue to promote Zanchetta despite multiple allegations against him — including photographic evidence.

The Vatican has not issued any further statement on Zanchetta, but it has indicated that he is not actively working while the investigation into his behavior is ongoing.

For more details about the Zanchetta case, read the full AP report here.

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