In a statement Tuesday the Vatican again denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta before his December 2017 appointment to a Vatican office.
In a Jan. 22 statement, interim director of the Vatican Press Office Alessandro Gisotti “resolutely” repeated a Jan. 4 Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018.
The Vatican’s latest statement came in response to recent articles on the Zanchetta allegations carried by several news outlets. Gisotti said it was necessary to correct “some misleading reconstructions.” He also confirmed that Zanchetta’s case is being studied and that “information will be forthcoming regarding the results” of that process.
Bishop Zanchetta, 54, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Quilmes in 1991. He remained there until his 2013 appointment by Pope Francis as Bishop of Orán. In July 2017, he announced his resignation as bishop, citing health problems and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”
After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up the position of assessor at APSA, which manages the Holy See’s assets and real estate holdings, in December 2017.
In a Jan. 20 report from the Associated Press, Zanchetta’s former vicar general said that information about alleged sexual abuse by Zanchetta had been sent to Rome several years prior to the Argentine bishop’s appointment to APSA.
Fr. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general in the diocese of Orán, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017. According to Manzano, these complaints concerned alleged “obscene behavior” by Zanchetta, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and the possession of naked selfies on the bishop’s phone.
“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,” Manzano, now a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, he noted.
In May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP, he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the apostolic nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican.
According to Gisotti’s Jan. 4 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.
“If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.
Zanchetta has been placed on temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.