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Pope Knew of Allegations vs. 'Spiritual Son' in '15: Report

Argentine diocesan officials say bishop was allowed to quietly resign, then promoted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2019 8:17 AM CST
In this 2016 photo, former Bishop of Oran Gustavo Zanchetta. In 2017, Pope Francis accepted Zanchetta's resignation after priests in the diocese of Oran rebelled under his authoritarian rule and sent...   (AP Photo/Javier Corbalan)
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(Newser) – The Vatican received information in 2015 and 2017 that an Argentine bishop close to Pope Francis had taken naked selfies, exhibited "obscene" behavior, and been accused of misconduct with seminarians, his former vicar general told the AP, undermining Vatican claims that allegations were made a few months ago. Francis accepted Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta's resignation in August 2017, after priests in the remote Oran diocese complained about his authoritarian rule and a former vicar, seminary rector, and another prelate alleged abuses of power, inappropriate behavior, and sexual harassment of seminarians, said the former vicar, the Rev. Juan Jose Manzano. The scandal over Zanchetta, 54, is the latest to implicate Francis as he and the church face an unprecedented crisis over their mishandling of clergy abuse. Francis summoned leaders to a summit next month, but his own actions are increasingly in the spotlight.

The pope's decision to allow Zanchetta to resign quietly, and then promote him to the No. 2 position in one of the Vatican's most sensitive offices, has raised questions again about whether Francis turned a blind eye to misconduct of his allies and dismissed allegations as ideological attacks. Manzano said he was one of the diocesan officials who raised the alarm in 2015 and sent the selfies to the Vatican, and one of three who made a second complaint in 2017 "when the situation was much more serious." "In 2015, we just sent a 'digital support' with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior," he said. "The Holy Father summoned Zanchetta and he justified himself saying that his cellphone had been hacked." Francis named Zanchetta to Oran in 2013 in one of his first Argentine bishop appointments as pope. He knew Zanchetta well, and Manzano said Francis had treated him as a "spiritual son."

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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