Zanchetta Case: Lawyer Requests House Arrest for Convicted Bishop to Serve Sexual-Abuse Sentence Due to Health Problems

The bishop was hospitalized for hypertension.

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta.
Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta. (photo: ACI Prensa / EWTN)

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who was sentenced in March to four and a half years in prison for sexually abusing two seminarians in Argentina, has requested through his lawyer that the sentence be served under house arrest in a local monastery, due to the bishop’s health problems.

Bishop Zanchetta’s lawyer, Darío Palmier, is seeking the change so the bishop emeritus of Orán doesn’t have to remain in Prison Unit 3.

The bishop was first taken to St. Vincent de Paul Hospital for hypertension. After being treated, he was returned to jail; but he later was sent to a private clinic, according to Salta Radio Ciudad Online.

“He’s hospitalized; we’re treating him. Recently he had to make an in- person visit to the doctor for hypertension symptoms; he has a serious case of kidney disease. It‘s a disease related to his venous system; it was diagnosed in Rome,” the lawyer told Salta 12, as reported by Ciudad Online.

“The truth is that he can collapse at any time. He’s being examined by the courts’ medical service. There’s a medical team made up of cardiologists and kidney specialists,” Palmier added. He explained that Boshop Zanchetta’s health has worsened and that "the medical exams are taking a long time.”

“We asked that due to his condition that he be transferred so he could be examined by a private doctor,” said Palmier.

The lawyer said that it is the Second Chamber of the Orán Trial Court, consisting of Judges María Laura Toledo Zamora, Raúl Fernando López and Héctor Fabián Fayos, which must respond to the request for house arrest.

These are the same judges who sentenced the bishop to prison in March.

Palmier also said that the place offered for Bishop Zanchetta to serve his sentence under house arrest is the Monastery of Our Lady of the Valley of the Order of the Immaculate Conception-Franciscan Conceptionist Mothers.

Bishop Zanchetta stepped down as bishop of Orán in 2017, claiming “health reasons,” and was subsequently appointed as an assessor at the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), a specially created position. The APSA oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other sovereign assets.

As of June 2021, Bishop Zanchetta was no longer with the APSA. He previously had been suspended, then reinstated, from the role amid a canonical investigation into his conduct.  

He led the Diocese of Orán, located in northern Argentina, from 2013 until 2017. His episcopal appointment was one of the first done by Pope Francis in his native Argentina. 

The Zanchetta trial, which was initially set to begin in October, was delayed four months at the request of his attorney. The defense attorney had asked the judges to wait for the files of the canonical process that the bishop is undergoing at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Vatican has not yet released any information regarding the canonical process or any determinations that have been reached regarding Bishop Zanchetta. 

Allegations of sexual misconduct were first raised against Bishop Zanchetta in 2015. According to Argentinian newspaper El Tribuno, one of Bishop Zanchetta’s secretaries accidentally discovered sexually explicit images that were sent and received from his cellphone in 2015. The secretary alerted authorities, stating that the pictures included “young people” engaged in sexual activity, as well as lewd images of the bishop. 

In October 2015, Pope Francis summoned Bishop Zanchetta to Rome for five days. At the time, Bishop Zanchetta informed Pope Francis that his phone had been hacked and that the allegations against him were motivated by anti-Pope Francis sentiment. 

The Pope reportedly accepted the bishop’s explanation that his cellphone had been hacked and took no further action. 

The bishop was convicted of sexually abusing seminarians this past March.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.