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Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, formerly of Orán diocese.YouTube screenshot

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — In the wake of the sentencing of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, recently found guilty of sexual abuse, questions remain about his relationship with Pope Francis, and the manner in which the Vatican responded to concerns raised about the South American prelate.

On March 4, Zanchetta was sentenced to four and half years in prison after having been found guilty of sexually abusing two seminarians. Zanchetta, the bishop emeritus of Orán in northern Argentina, pled “not guilty” to all charges of alleged sexual abuse which were made against him. 

The court’s sentencing of Zanchetta came as a blow to Pope Francis, who had lent significant public support to the Argentinian cleric. 

Damian Thompson, associate editor of The Spectator, who has highlighted Zanchetta’s rise and fall in the Vatican, has repeatedly questioned why “Pope Francis’s cover-up of Zanchetta’s crimes” has not attracted more attention.

Thompson has drawn up a timeline of Zanchetta’s case, and the Pope’s involvement with the now-disgraced cleric.

Credit: Damian Thompson

LifeSiteNews has provided continued coverage of Zanchetta, and in light of his recent sentencing has drawn up a timeline of his relationship with Pope Francis and the Vatican over the last decade.

Timeline of Bishop Zanchetta’s dealings with Pope Francis

2013: Zanchetta was one of Pope Francis’ first appointments in 2013, when the Argentinian Pope appointed Zanchetta bishop of Orán, despite local protests, in which Zanchetta was accused of “mishandling financial matters,” according to Joan Frawley Desmond. 

Yet, as Desmond notes, these protests were “the first of many such complaints against Bishop Zanchetta that appeared to fall on deaf ears.”

2015: Two years later, Zanchetta was summoned to Rome, after pornographic images of “homosexual sex,” along with “nude selfies” of Zanchetta himself were found on his phone. He excused himself as having been the victim of a phone hack, an excuse which Pope Francis accepted.

2016: A number of priests in the diocese of Orán, along with the bishop’s secretary, signed sworn testimonies confirming the existence of the selfies on Zanchetta’s phone. The priests also testified to Zanchetta’s consistent “strange attitudes towards the seminarians,” involving late night massages. They added how Zanchetta sought to explain away the presence of downloaded audio files on his phone, sounded like “panting and cries from sexually explicit videos.”

The priests described Zanchetta as “a personal friend of the Holy Father.”

Their testimony was conveyed to the Archbishop of Salta, as well as the Cardinal Primate of Argentina Mario Aurelio Poli — a “close friend of Pope Francis — along with the papal nunciature. 

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Catholic seminaries in the United States are now scrutinizing applications for the formation of new classes for this coming Autumn.

One of the requirements - which comes to us from the Lord's decision to select only men as His apostles - is that all candidates for the priesthood must be male, biologically, from birth.

But, tragically, some gender-confused women, masquerading as men, have actually been unknowingly admitted to seminaries.

Therefore, urgent steps must be taken by all U.S. bishops to ensure that this never happens in their seminaries.

Please SIGN this petition which calls on all U.S. bishops to take steps to ensure that all candidates for the priesthood are male - biologically, from birth.*

With the steep rise of gender dysphoria (being confused about one's sex) and so-called "transitioning" (where one attempts to change one's sex by the use of opposite-sex hormones and through surgery), Catholic seminaries have seen a corresponding rise in applications from gender-confused individuals.

And, some of those applicants have even been accepted -- only to be expelled when the truth eventually came out.

In a recent memo, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, head of the USCCB's Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, stated that the Conference was “made aware of instances where it had been discovered that a woman living under a transgender identity had been unknowingly admitted to [a] seminary or to a house of formation of an institute of consecrated life.”

Archbishop Listecki's memo suggest that DNA tests and medical exams should be instituted to stop any further incidents.

This petition asks that these steps be made mandatory for all applicants to the priesthood or religious life. Making such requirements mandatory for all would obviate claims of singling out individuals for special treatment.

Additionally, this petition also asks for a fundamental change in Catholic baptism certificates, most of which do not currently indicate sex at birth.

Changing the baptism certificate to reflect sex at birth would help future seminary staff in making crucial decisions about who they admit to their ranks.

Thank you for SIGNING this urgent petition directed to all U.S. Catholic bishops. After you have signed, please consider SHARING with your likeminded friends, family and fellow parishioners.


'USCCB memo reveals women identifying as ‘trans men’ infiltrated seminaries' -

*This petition does not address the issue of individuals who, while born with male DNA, may exhibit female sexual characteristics (e.g., genitalia, features). The Church already acknowledges that such individuals cannot present themselves as candidates for the priesthood because of the aforementioned issues which are impediments for those individuals to fully embrace the masculine character required for the priesthood.

This petition also does not address the issue of biological men who say they are women. Such individuals are also automatically excluded as being candidates for the priesthood for the same reason above (as well as the obvious psychological issues present).

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2017: In August, Zanchetta suddenly resigned from his diocese, citing ill health. Only a few months later he was swiftly moved into Pope Francis’ Vatican as an advisor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), ranking third in the Curial department and having jurisdiction over various properties owned by the Holy See. Francis created the position for Zanchetta. 

2019: Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti claimed in a press conference on January 4, 2019, that “there was no accusation of sexual abuse at the moment of his [Zanchetta’s] appointment as an advisor [to the APSA].” The Vatican was reportedly only made aware of allegations against Zanchetta in 2018, declared Gisotti.

He doubled down and repeated the claim on January 23 after the Associated Press reported that, according to local clergy, Francis had known about the accusations since 2015. On February 24, Gisotti told reporters that the accusations were still being investigated by the Vatican.

2019: In May, Pope Francis defended Zanchetta, saying he was “disorganized” but did not in fact mishandle things economically. Francis nevertheless promised a canonical trial. The trial by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) began that year, and Zanchetta was temporarily suspended from his position at APSA.

2019: June saw Argentinian prosecutors formally charging him for “aggravated sexual assault” of two seminarians in his diocese. He was allowed to return to the Vatican “on the promise that he would return to face trial, because Vatican officials certified that he was employed there — although by this time he was suspended from his post at APSA.”

2020: Zanchetta returns to his position at APSA. No news on the progress or result of the CDF trial is made public. 

2021: An internal source in APSA reported that Zanchetta had left his position in June 2021. His civil trial was originally scheduled for October in Argentina, but is delayed as the CDF refused to send requested files from its trial. 

2022: After waiting for months for the CDF to assist the civil trial, prosecutors decide to proceed with Zanchetta’s trial in February, without the documents the Vatican was asked to provide.

2022: On March 4, Zanchetta is sentenced to four and a half years in prison, after the civil trial found him guilty of “aggravated continued simple sexual abuse committed by a recognized minister of religion.”

As Desmond notes, Zanchetta “received an extraordinary degree of personal attention and protection from Francis.” Following the court ruling in Argentina, neither Pope Francis nor the Vatican provided a comment on the ruling. The status of the CDF’s trial remains unknown.