Two Argentine Friends

Zanchetta verdict
Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, hearing the verdict in his case, in a courtroom in Salta, Argentina

On February 22, 2001, Pope John Paul II created thirty-seven new Cardinals, including Theodore McCarrick and the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio.

Later that year, Bergoglio ordained his fellow Buenos-Aires native Andres Stanovnik a bishop.

In November of 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio became the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Argentina. He went on to serve in that position for six years.

During that time, then-Cardinal Bergoglio worked closely with Father Gustavo Zanchetta.

The young Father Zanchetta had studied in Rome, then returned home to Argentina around the same time that Bergoglio became a Cardinal. Zuchetta took up a chancery job in his home diocese (just south of Buenos Aires) and simultaneously served as a top staffer at the Bishops’ Conference office.

In 2011, Cardinal Bergoglio received an envelope with documents that incriminated Zanchetta. An employee of Zanchetta’s home diocese had sent them. They showed that Zanchetta is a dishonest opportunist who used his authority as a diocesan official to raid Catholic schools for money, which he used to win powerful friends for himself.

Bergoglio did nothing about this.

Pope Francis waving

In March of 2013, the Sistine-chapel conclave elected Bergoglio the new bishop of Rome.

In short order, the new pope named his old friend Zanchetta a bishop, bypassing the usual process of consultation with the Vatican embassy in Argentina.

The diocesan employee who had sent the envelope in 2011 wrote an open letter to the pope, with dozens of co-signers, begging him to reconsider.

Dear Pope Francis, …To those of us who have suffered from Zanchetta’s abuse of power, his ordination as a bishop would cause enormous pain…

Jorge Bergoglio once again ignored this man’s pleas. Stanovnik ordained Zanchetta to the episcopate, and Zanchetta became the Bishop of Orán, in northern Argentina, hundreds of miles away from his home diocese. Zanchetta immediately founded a seminary there.

Why? Why have a seminary? To help idealistic young men become priests?

No. Actually: In order to abuse the seminarians sexually. Zanchetta regularly crept up behind seminarians and grabbed them by the crotch. He would sneak through the halls late at night, with a flashlight, and enter seminarians’ rooms, and sit next to them in bed, with a bottle of hooch in hand.

If one of Zanchetta’s favorite good-looking boys tried to leave the seminary, he would pursue him and play dirty tricks on him to get him to return. In one case, he went so far as to contact an ex-seminarian’s girlfriend to tell her that the young man would be returning to the seminary (which he had no intention of doing.)

Zanchetta ruined lives. He destroyed the vocations of eager young Catholic men who were trying to dedicate themselves to the Lord and His Church. Meanwhile, the bishop’s clerical underlings threatened anyone who tried to blow the whistle.

Francis and Zanchetta

In September 2015, Zanchetta made his fatal “mistake.” He handed his phone to a diocesan employee. The bishop had pics from a couple of events that he wanted uploaded to the diocesan facebook page.

The employee downloaded the bishop’s photo gallery to a thumb drive and returned the phone. But when the employee began to go through the images, he discovered pornographic photos of the bishop and young men.

[None of the information I am collecting here is secret, at this point. It has all been published in El Tribuno, the local newspaper of the Salta Province of northern Argentina. They put together this helpful graphic of what happened next:]

El Tribuno graphic Feb 2019

The employee handed over the thumb drive to diocesan officials. It eventually made it’s way to Pope Francis, in October 2015.

The pope decided to handle the case personally. He called his old friend. They came to an agreement that Zanchetta’s “enemies” had hacked his phone. The compromising photos were not genuine; they were “trucadas”–falsified by computer tricks.

The two Argentine friends apparently hoped that their conversation would mark the end of the episode. Zanchetta had made an embarrassing mistake: he had handed his phone to a man who apparently believes in God. But now all that could blow over, they thought.

I guess they didn’t count on the fact that there were others in Orán who also believe in God. In May of 2017, three priests of the diocese went to the Vatican ambassador in Argentina to report the sexual abuse that was happening at the seminary. The priests disclosed that there were probably a dozen victims. (These brave priests were then punished by Zanchetta’s cronies for going to the nuncio.)

A couple months later, Zanchetta abruptly announced to the Catholics of Orán that he would have to leave the diocese for the sake of his health. He went to stay briefly with Stanovnik. Then he flew to Europe.

In August of that year (2017), the Vatican announced that Zanchetta, aged 53, had resigned as Bishop of Orán “for health reasons.” Very soon after that, however, a new announcement: Zuchetta will serve as a Vatican official, in the finance office, and he will live in the pope’s residence.

Again: the two old friends apparently thought they had managed to get the ugly business behind them. But, also, again: there were others in Orán who believe in a just God.

Zanchetta survivors Marcio Torina and Kevin Matias, as well as others who remain anonymous, found the courage to go to a reporter, and then to the police. They told the full story of what Zanchetta had done to them while they were in the seminary.

In the province of Salta, Argentina, sexual abuse of an adult is a crime punishable by imprisonment. If the abuser is a religious minister, that adds an aggravating factor.

The prosecutors lined up witnesses and put together their case. They sought documents from Rome–in vain. The prosecutors asked the Vatican to remand Zanchetta to Argentina, to undergo questioning. No response for over a year.

On February 21, however (two weeks ago), Zanchetta finally appeared in court in Argentina, to stand trial.

The various witnesses took the stand, and yesterday the judges found Zanchetta guilty and sentenced him to four years, six months in prison.

Let me repeat that. Again, I am not making this up. All this information is available on the El Tribuno website. Let me repeat:

Yesterday, an old friend of the pope’s; one of the first bishops he appointed; a Vatican official; a housemate of the pope’s: convicted of sexual abuse and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Pope Francis has known for well over a decade that Gustavo Zanchetta is a dangerous narcissist. The pope has known for five and a-half years that the man is a sex abuser.

Yet the Holy Father did not do justice for the criminal’s victims, and he did not practice “transparency.” Instead, Bergoglio spirited Zanchetta away to Rome, and into a Vatican sinecure, and into the papal residence.

But the pope’s old friend will not return to the residence. He will remain in Argentina. In prison.

Much more to come on this.

4 thoughts on “Two Argentine Friends

  1. Oh thank God.

    No one on earth knows this except for those directly involved in the legal proceedings, the diocese in Argentina, and Vaticani. And now your loyal readers.

    You are bringing the white hot light of truth and justice – thank you, Father.

    At some point, you have to see that since, oh around 1962, shite has gotten very real in Holy Mother Church.

    Whether you acknowledge the St. Gallen mafia or scoff at it, since around 1962-65 there have been a lot of liturgical (1969), catechetical (1994), canonical (1983), conciliar (1965), and pederastical (looooong ago) problems with Peter’s Barque, no?

  2. You’re a blogging machine lately! You’re hard to keep up with. Setting aside the absurdity of a pope deciding on his own that pictures are fake rather than take the simple step of getting an opinion from forensics experts…

    The problem I think we’re going to have is that the World will say that Zanchetta is a victim being singled out because he is gay. They’ll say that Francis acted admirably, even like a shepherd, protecting his weak, sinful friend from the “homophobia” rampant in Argentine Catholic society. They’ll say the REAL devil in all this is the “God fearing” man who “doxxed” Zanchetta by looking through his photos when it’s easy to simply select the newest photos or only those photos from a certain date. They’ll say must be a climate-denier TLM-type who was motivated by his disdain for Zanchetta’s left-ish politics, and that he’s a hypocrite who never would have forwarded the photos had the same scenario involved a right-leaning bishop whom he supported. News outlets in America and Europe will want to refuse to give this story any coverage on the thinking that they’d be rewarding the “homophobia” of the chancery worker, and that Zanchetta’s only “crime” in all this is his attraction to males.

    I don’t say this to be flippant, but to highlight a very real problem that I believe is hampering our ability to deal effectively with this Scandal. We’re in a catch-22: To avoid the heathen-world’s yawns when clerics are caught in consensual/adult sexual behavior, emphasis is placed on “harassment” and power dynamics such as sexual advances by a superior on a subordinate. In the #MeToo era, this tactic attempts to leverage a powerful secular, cultural force which, if it cares about its integrity, has to act just as outraged whether perps are gay or straight. But in the all-male hierarchy of the Catholic Church, any such harassment is by definition male-on-male, and so those exposing the problem will always be open to the charge that despite their pious talk all they really want to do is conduct witch hunts against gays.

    I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is, I just know we haven’t found it yet.

  3. Thank you for continuing to share what you learn, as difficult and sad as it is. Although at this point I don’t think anyone is surprised at anything anymore, as much as it hurts. Still believe in my Catholic faith, which is my rock and my foundation. These people and their actions do not reflect the church Christ left for us and the faith for which people have died. Keep writing.

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