BUENOS AIRES - Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting two seminarians before a court in Argentina. The bishop has been barred from leaving the country and ordered to undergo a psychological examination.
The decision to charge Zanchetta was made June 6. The bishop arrived in Argentina earlier last week, having been in Rome and Spain. The court-ordered examination is expected to take place on Wednesday, June 12.
A Vatican trial of the allegations against Zanchetta is also underway.
Zanchetta, bishop emeritus of Orán, Argentina, was first accused of sexually inappropriate behavior in 2015. At that time, it was discovered that his cell phone contained various sexual images, including nude selfies. The bishop claimed his phone and computer had been hacked, and that the accusations were motivated by people who did not support Pope Francis.
Zanchetta and Pope Francis have been close for years, and one of the pope’s first acts in office was to appoint him as a bishop.
None of the alleged pornographic images on his phone are reported to be of minors.
Zanchetta stepped down from the diocese in August of 2017, ostensibly due to health issues. Four months later, he was appointed by Pope Francis as the Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a position that Pope Francis created for Zanchetta.
The Vatican has stated twice that they did not know about Zanchetta’s misdeeds until 2018, a claim that is disputed by Fr. Juan José Manzano, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Orán. Manzano claims that he reported Zanchetta in 2015, after the pornographic images were found on his phone. Manzano says he also reported him again in 2017.
In 2016, a complaint was made against Zanchetta that accused him of “problematic behavior” with seminarians. This behavior included entering their rooms at night, requesting massages from them, waking up seminarians in the morning, sitting on their beds, and drinking alcohol with them.
That complaint stated that Zanchetta had an “obsessive omnipresence” in the seminary that made the seminarians very uncomfortable. Pope Francis has said that "there is no doubt that the clergy did not feel well treated by him."
In May, the pope confirmed that a preliminary investigation into the bishop had concluded and the matter was proceeding to a canonical trial.
Francis said that the charges had been given over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who will conduct the process. "They will make a trial, they will issue a sentence and I will promulgate it," the pope stated.
If convicted by the civil court in Argentina, Zanchetta could face between three and 10 years in prison.