Vatican City, May 28, 2019 / 11:06 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has said a preliminary investigation against Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta has concluded and will now proceed to trial.
Zanchetta, Bishop Emeritus of Orán, had been under Vatican investigation for sexual abuse of seminarians and other sexual misconduct.
Pope Francis said in an interview with Valentina Alazraki published May 28 at Vatican News that he read the results of the investigation earlier this month and “saw that a trial was necessary.”
He said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will conduct the process. “They will make a trial, they will issue a sentence and I will promulgate it,” the pope stated.
After resigning as Bishop of Orán in August 2017, Zanchetta was appointed by Pope Francis in December 2017 to a position created for him within the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which oversees the Vatican’s assets and real estate holdings.
The bishop is on a leave of absence from APSA while under investigation.
The Vatican has twice insisted it knew nothing about abuse reports against Zanchetta until the fall of 2018, though media investigations suggest that Pope Francis knew about the allegations in 2015, two years before he gave Zanchetta a Vatican job.
In the May 28 interview, Pope Francis also said he knew nothing about accusations of sexual abuse by Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, prior to thoese accusations becoming public in 2018.
Zanchetta was reported to the Vatican in 2015 and 2017 when he was discovered in lewd sexual photographs on his cellphone, and suspected of sexual abusing of seminarians.
In the interview, Pope Francis confirmed that there had been an accusation against Zanchetta and said that he “immediately” brought him to the Vatican to discuss it, confirming documents published Feb. 21 by The Tribune, a newspaper in the Salta region of Argentina. The documents confirmed earlier reporting by the Associated Press.
The pope says in that meeting, Zanchetta “defended himself by saying that they had hacked him, and he defended himself well.” He added that the evidence left a doubt, so “in dubio pro reo.”
Francis acknowledged Zanchetta had been, according to some, “despotic, authoritarian,” and had some unclear economic management.
According to Pope Francis, Zanchetta did not in fact “mishandle” things economically, though it was “disorganized.”
“There is no doubt that the clergy did not feel well treated by him” when he was Bishop of Orán, he stated. Francis explained that after receiving complaints about mistreatment by Zanchetta from some clergy, communicated through the nuncio, he asked for Zanchetta’s resignation as Bishop of Orán.
According to The Tribune, three of Zanchetta’s vicars general and two monsignors made a formal internal complaint before the Argentine nunciature in 2016, alleging inappropriate behavior with seminarians, such as encouraging them to drink alcohol and favoring the more “graceful” (attractive) among them.
When Zanchetta resigned in 2017 he claimed it was for health reasons. The Vatican did not open an investigation at that time.
Pope Francis said he sent the Argentine prelate to Spain for a psychiatric test, not “a holiday in Spain” as he said some media reported, and “the test result was normal, they recommended a therapy once a month.” This is why, the pope stated, he did not go back to Argentina — because he had to go to Madrid for two days of therapy every month.
The pope said he shared all of this background information to answer the “impatient people” who say that “they did nothing.”
“The Pope should not publish what he is doing every day, but from the first moment of this case, I did not stand by and watch,” he defended.
To the journalist’s statement that “I think it was important to tell all this, don’t you think?” he said: “I told it now. But I can’t do it every moment, but I never stopped.”