An Argentine Catholic bishop has been sentenced to prison for sexual abuse within the church, despite Pope Francis initially defending him.
Gustavo Zanchetta was sentenced on Mar. 4 to four and a half years in prison for “simple, continued and aggravated sexual abuse” during his time as a bishop between 2013 and 2017 in Orán.
Accusations of Zanchetta date back to 2016, when five priests reported his sexual abuse to church authorities at the Saint John XXIII Seminary. Additional allegations against him included authoritarianism and financial mismanagement.
One of the victims said in court that the bishop had made advances towards him by first requesting massages.
Zanchetta denied the charges, saying the priests were seeking revenge over their differences.
He had received the support of Pope Francis, who, in the wake of the allegations, assigned him to a senior position managing financial investments at the Vatican in 2017.
Local authorities later launched an investigation into Zanchetta in 2019 after a local Argentine newspaper reported on the allegations.
On Monday, the prosecutor said that investigators had “established the truthfulness of witnesses against the bishop” through their internal logic, context and precise details, the Guardian reported.
The court ordered his immediate detention.
Carlos Lombardi, a representative of the victims, said Zanchetta’s case was “a strong blow” to Pope Francis, especially after he defended him on previous occasions.