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First trial of abuses in the Holy See: the Vatican acquits two accused priests within its territory

The date was marked in red on the Vatican calendar. Not so much because of the magnitude of the case, but because it was the first time that a matter of abuse committed within the walls of the Holy See had been tried and that, furthermore, it was being judged by its own court. It was a case that dates back to 2007 and 2008 and that Francis had insisted on serving as an example, inside and outside the Vatican . The final result is not quite conclusive and can cause some discomfort the day after the French Church has cleaned its own house for the first time revealing 330. 000 cases of sexual violence continued for 50 years. The court of the Holy See, in this case, has acquitted by prescription and lack of evidence the two defendants in the trial – a former seminarian who today became a priest and the rector of the institution where the events took place – on alleged sexual abuse to one of the residents of the Saint Pius X pre-seminary.

The sentence published by the Vatican itself ―the Pope expressed himself only two hours before on the French case showing the deep “shame” that it caused him― It points out that the acquittals of some of the crimes have been ordered by prescription, while other charges that weighed on them were dismissed for lack of evidence. In a few, however, they were considered not guilty. The investigations began in November 2017 after the publication of these facts in the book Peccato originale by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. And during the trial, the victim, identified as LG and who left the pre-seminar after the events, confirmed that he had suffered sexual abuse for years by a partner.

The main accused was the priest Gabriele Martinelli, who is currently 28 years old and to whom the Vatican prosecutor attributed a series of abuses to another student between 2007 and 2012. The particularity of the case is that both were minors at that time, although he was somewhat older and coordinated the activities of the pre-seminar – a kind of vocational filter – in which the young people who act as altar boys reside in the Basilica of San Pedro while They assess whether they follow the priestly path.

The other accused was the former rector of the institution Enrico Radice, who is currently 71 years old. He was accused of covering up and protecting Martinelli, who happened to be one of his main disciples at that time. Martinelli would have had knowledge of what was happening, but would not have reported or transferred the events to the authorities. The acquittal in this case is also striking, because the Vatican prosecutor, Roberto Zannotti, requested a sentence of six years in prison for Martinelli and four for Radice.

The impression that has been circulating for a long time is that seminars are where part of the abuse problem originates. Along these lines, the process also saw three former students who corroborated the climate described by the victim in the pre-seminar. According to those witnesses, “an unhealthy environment” prevailed where “sexual jokes” were frequent. One of those former students, Flaminio Ottaviani, 34, claimed to have seen Martinelli “touch the private parts” of another student; while another, Andrea Spinato, from 31, spoke of “touching” the youngest. He also assured that Martinelli had a “very strong dominant role” thanks to the rector and that his “homosexual attitude” was notorious.

The internal investigations in this case were more severe than those of the court. The bishop of the Diocese of Como (northern Italy), Oscar Cantoni, head of the Opera DonFolci, manager of the preseminar, stated that between 2006 and 2012 the priests of the center already warned of an “inappropriate sexual behavior” of the accused. The diocese did its own investigations and ended up agreeing to pay compensation of 000. euros for the victim, who was never paid. In addition, he isolated Martinelli in a monastery in the alpine region of Valle d’Aosta and then in Como, where he could only speak to his family and superiors ..

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