WHAT DID THE VATICAN KNOW AND WHEN? THE BISHOP ZANCHETTA CASE
The following was released early this afternoon by the Holy See Press Office:
“In response to the questions raised by a few journalists on the matter pertaining to Bishop Zanchetta, the ad interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, has affirmed:
“In reference to the articles published recently by several news sources, as well as to some misleading reconstructions, I resolutely repeat what was stated this past 4 January. In addition, I emphasize that the case is being studied and when this process is over, information will be forthcoming regarding the results.”
Here is Gisotti’s full January 4 statement about the case of Argentinean Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta:
“Bishop Zanchetta was not removed from the diocese of Oran (Argentina). It was he who resigned. The reason for his resignation is linked to his difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and very tense relations with the priests of the diocese. At the time of his resignation there had been accusations of authoritarianism against him, but there had been no accusation of sexual abuse. The problem that emerged then was linked to his inability to govern the clergy.
“After his resignation he spent a period of time in Spain. After the period in Spain, in consideration of his capability for management, he was appointed councilor of APSA [Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See].
“No charges of sexual abuse had arisen at the time of appointment as advisor. The accusations of sexual abuse date back to this fall (2018). On the basis of these accusations and the news recently reported by the media, the bishop of Oran has already assembled some testimonies that are yet to come to the Congregation for Bishops. If the elements to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission of the bishops. During the investigation, Msgr. Zanchetta will abstain from work.”
This January 21 CNA/EWTN report from Buenos Aires in the National Catholic Register challenges the time line in the above press office statement:
“In an exclusive report from The Associated Press, the former vicar to Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta said that the Vatican had had information about sexual-abuse allegations against Bishop Zanchetta for several years.
“This contradicts a Vatican statement made just weeks ago in which it was said that the Holy See had only gained knowledge of sexual-abuse allegations against Bishop Zanchetta a few months ago.
“Bishop Zanchetta resigned as bishop of Orán, Argentina, on Aug. 1, 2017, slightly more than four years after his appointment there. At the time, he cited health problems and “difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and in very tense relations with the priests of the diocese” and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”
“About four months after his resignation, Bishop Zanchetta was appointed by Francis to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. The APSA manages the Holy See’s assets and real estate holdings.
“On January 4, 2019, the Vatican announced that it had first received accusations of alleged sexual misconduct against Bishop Zanchetta only a few months ago, in the fall of 2018.
“Alessandro Gisotti, interim Holy See press officer, said Jan. 4 that, ‘at the time of his resignation, there had been against (Bishop Zanchetta) accusations of authoritarianism, but there had been against him no accusation of sexual abuse. … The accusations of sexual abuse date to this autumn (2018)’.
“But Father Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Bishop Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017 for alleged “obscene behavior,” misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians and naked selfies found on his phone.
“Father Manzano, who now is a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP that he and several other diocesan officials alerted the Vatican in 2015 of Bishop Zanchetta’s concerning behavior. He said he sent the Vatican the naked selfies and other compromising images that had been found on the bishop’s phones.
“’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’,” he told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Bishop Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, Father Manzano noted.
“It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn’t intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta, and he justified himself saying that his cell phone had been hacked and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the Pope.”
“Father Manzano said that, for a time after being summoned to the Vatican, Bishop Zanchetta’s behavior seemed to improve. But then it worsened, and he would allegedly visit the seminary “at all hours,” get drunk with seminarians, and travel with them alone, often without the permission of the rector of the seminary.