BUENOS AIRES (ARGENTINA)
Reuters [London, England]
February 21, 2022
By Agustin Geist
The trial of a Roman Catholic bishop accused of sexually abusing young men in northern Argentina will start on Monday, in the latest court case to highlight allegations of sex crimes that have roiled the global church over the past few decades.
Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires and the first Latin American pontiff, has repeatedly apologized for past crimes by clerics and pledged to end cover-ups while ensuring that priestly sexual abuse be “erased from the face of the earth”.
The Argentine case centers on accusations that Gustavo Zanchetta, who served as bishop of Oran in the largely Catholic northern province of Salta, preyed on young men studying for the priesthood at a seminary he founded in 2016.
In late 2017, Zanchetta left Oran to work in the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a financial and accounting office that also manages church properties in Italy.
The following year, three priests accused him of sexual abuse, abuse of power and financial mismanagement, which they said took place at the Oran seminary.
A lawyer for Zanchetta did not respond to a request for comment, but in 2019 a Vatican spokesperson for him said the bishop would cooperate with the legal proceedings to try to restore his reputation.
Zanchetta’s trial is expected to last at least a week and include some 15 witnesses. It is possible the bishop will testify on Monday, an official in the prosecutor’s press office said.
A local prosecutor first called for Zanchetta’s arrest in 2019, but the case has dragged on amid legal delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and a Vatican canon law investigation.
Sexual abuse allegations have been lodged against at least 100 Catholic priests in Argentina, according to BishopAccountability.org, an abuse tracking group.
Reporting by Agustin Geist; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Alex Richardson