Bishop Befriended By Bergoglio Behind Bars

The criminal conviction of Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta for the sexual abuse of seminarians has sent shock waves through the Argentine Catholic Church, and the Vatican.

The conviction also raises questions about the credibility of Pope Francis, a close friend of Zanchetta, on handling abuse allegations. It could well cast a shadow over the pope’s signature reform effort, Vos estis lux mundi, promulgated in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal.

Bishop Zanchetta was sentenced to four years and six months in prison on Friday after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting two former adult seminarians. If he serves his full prison term, the bishop will have spent longer in jail than he did as Bishop of Oran.

While the court focused on his brief tenure leading the diocese, scrutiny is now likely to fall on the years Zanchetta spent in Rome, under the patronage of Pope Francis, who promoted Zanchetta to bishop in one of his first acts as pope, and who created a job for Zanchetta in the Vatican after the bishop resigned from his diocese under a cloud of suspicion.

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The Zanchetta Timeline

  • July 2013: Francis makes his friend Zanchetta, 49, Orán Bishop, against the advice of his councillors. Zanchetta presented himself in Orán as a “friend of Francis.”
  • December 2014: Zanchetta refuses to submit to an alcohol and drug control by police while driving in Salta.
  • September 2015: Zanchetta’s secretary finds homosex porn on Zanchetta’s phone. Francis summons Zanchetta.
  • April 2016: Five priests write to the Nuncio accusing Zanchetta for homosexual abuses.
  • July 2017: Zanchetta leaves Orán for “health problems.”
  • August 2017: Francis asks Zanchetta to resign.
  • December 2017: Francis employs Zanchetta at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) although he is also accused of embezzling. He lives in Santa Marta with Francis.
  • December 2018-January 2019: Argentinean media write that in 2014-2015, Zanchetta abused between 9-10 Orán seminarians.
  • January 2019: Zanchetta is suspended from his Vatican position. The CDF begins a canonical process about which nothing is known.
  • November 2019: Failing to contact Zanchetta, prosecutors issue an international arrest warrant. He returns to Argentina.
  • June 2020: Francis reinstates Zanchetta at APSA while dismissing bishops for being Catholic.
  • 2021: Zanchetta is suspended at APSA after criminal prosecution is decided against him.
  • July 2021: Zanchetta’s position at APSA ends. He returns to Argentina.
  • March 2022: Zanchetta convicted of sexual abuse.