Vatican Sentences Priest And Ex-Altar Server To Prison For Sexual Abuse In First-Of-Its-Kind Case

Forbes [Jersey City NJ]

January 23, 2024

By Cailey Gleeson

A Vatican court on Tuesday sentenced a priest to prison for sexually abusing a fellow student while attending a youth seminary whose members worked as altar servers for the pope, multiple news outlets reported, marking Vatican City’s first sexual abuse criminal trial of this kind—amid global scrutiny over the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse cases.


Gabriele Martinelli, 31, was reportedly sentenced to two-and-a-half-years in prison and issued fines—including covering the victim’s legal fees—on the charge of corruption of a minor when they both attended Saint Pius X Pre-Seminary between 2006 and 2012.

Laura Sgrò, the victim’s lawyer, told the Washington Post the decision was “historic,” since it was the first sexual violence verdict in Vatican City, an independent city-state run by the Catholic Church.

He was previously acquitted in October 2021 after a lower court found no evidence of coercion in Martinelli’s alleged sexual abuse of the younger peer, referred to as L.G.

Despite the acquittal, that court did find evidence Martinelli corrupted a minor—due to a portion of the abuse occurring when he was an adult and the victim was underage—but said the statute of limitation expired.

However, the appeals court ruled Tuesday that the period of conduct in question—between August 2008 and March 2009—did fall within the statute of limitations.

The ruling may still be appealed to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura—the Vatican’s highest authority—and did not indicate whether or not Martinelli can remain a priest, the Post reported.