One defendant, now a priest, was charged with sexual assault when he and his accuser were teenagers in a seminary within the walls of the Vatican. Another priest was accused of covering it up.
Vatican City – A Vatican court on Wednesday acquitted a priest of sexual assault charges when he and his accuser were juvenile altar boys at a seminary within the Vatican walls. A second priest, then the rector of the madrasa, was cleared of charges that he had covered up the alleged abuses.
Prosecutors claimed that the abuse began when the priest, Rev. Gabriel Martinelli, now 29, and his accusers, identified only by their initials, LG, were young teenagers, less than a year old, for altar boys. was living in a seminary in the Vatican, and continued for five years. Father Martinelli was not a priest at the time, but was ordained years later.
Court decisions based on the Vatican’s own laws found that Father Martinelli could not be punished for alleged actions when he was under 16, the age of consent in Italy. After that age, it was determined that, although there had been sexual acts, “there was no evidence that the victim was coerced into these relationships through violence or threats.”
The former rector, Rev. Enrico Redis, was acquitted of charges that he had promoted abuse by defaming the charges of the accused. Prosecutors accused Father Redis of lying to Vatican investigators, at one point telling them he had no knowledge of the alleged abuse at the seminary.
Both the defendants had denied any wrongdoing and accused the LG of personal vendetta against them.
The decision comes as the Vatican is grappling with how to deal with the sexual abuse of children by adult clergy, and a day after an independent commission in France issued an investigation that estimated that more than 200,000 minors were killed by clergy members since 1950. was sexually abused. Pope. Francis on Wednesday apologized to women who were sexually abused at the hands of the priests in France.
“It is a moment of shame,” he said.
Judge Giuseppe Pignatone at the Vatican on Wednesday read out the verdict without comment. Father Martinelli and Father Redis were present and did not respond. Father Radice’s lawyer Agnes Camille Carisimi repeatedly patted him on the back.
Father Martinelli was accused of abusing his position as head altar boy to force another juvenile to participate in “corporal acts” at the Vatican. Prosecutors claimed the abuse began when the accuser was 13 years old and Father Martinelli was seven months old, and it continued for five years inside the St. Pius X youth seminary for altar boys in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope’s residence.
Prosecutors argued that as a prominent presence at the seminary, Father Martinelli was able to compel the LG to fulfill his will by offering plum rewards, such as performing mass service with the Pope, in exchange for sexual favors.
In May 2021, the Vatican moved the seminary outside its walls. At the time, a note from the Vatican said it had done this “so that students could be closer to their places of study and recreational activities.”
LG left the seminary in 2012, while Father Martinelli took a course of study within the church and was ordained a priest in 2017.
The allegations involved in the trial first surfaced when an anonymous source sent a letter to several cardinals and Pope Francis in 2013, the first year of his papacy. This helped lead to an inquiry led by the bishop of the northern Italian city of Como, where the religious system running the seminary is based. The Como investigation found the allegations to be baseless.
Francis has not commented on the matter, but he spoke at length on Wednesday about the abuse of children by adult priests, which he called evil and a potential threat to the Roman Catholic Church. He specifically addressed the report from France.
“To the victims, I want to express my sorrow and pain for the trauma they have endured,” he said. “And my shame, our shame, my shame too, that for so long the Church has been unable to keep it at the center of its concerns.”
Addressing French-speaking pilgrims to his weekly audience, he encouraged clerics in France to “continue to do everything possible so that similar tragedies are not repeated.”