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Vatican. Clergymen acquitted in the trial for sexual harassment at the Preseminary of St. Pius X

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The Vatican Court acquitted two clergymen in a trial of sexual harassment at the Preseminary of St. Pius X for boys preparing for ordination. Vatican judges decided that the alleged acts were not punishable, some were time-barred, and others were exonerated.

The trial of two Italian priests over sexual abuse in the Vatican Preseminary of St. Pius X lasted from October last year. In the dock, 29-year-old priest Gabriele Martinelli was accused of sexually abusing a student a year younger than him, using violence and threats. When these acts were to be committed, that is, in the years 2007-2012, the current priest was the senior coordinator of the activities of the preseminar residents and he was not yet ordained. He was ordained in Como in 2017. Both the perpetrator and the victim were underage for part of this period. The Vatican’s promoter of justice, the equivalent of the prosecutor in the secular justice system, Roberto Zannotti demanded Martinelli a combined sentence of six years in prison.


Zanotti applied for four years’ imprisonment against the 72-year-old former rector of the preseminary, Father Ernesto Radice, who was accused of concealing these acts. He was the rector there for 12 years. Both clergymen rejected the accusations made against them, maintaining that they were motivated by the suitor’s personal vengeance.

Vatican judges decided that the alleged acts were not punishable, some were time-barred, and others were exonerated.

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Testimonies on the Preseminary of St. Pius X

The key role in revealing the scandal was played by a young Pole, Kamil J., who, as a teenager, lived in this boarding house for high school students and was later removed from it. As he claims, he witnessed harassment there, which he informed his superiors about, but initially he was not given faith. He told the author of the book published in Italy, as well as on the RAI TV program in 2017, about what was happening. This prompted an investigation into the Vatican.

In the past months, testimony was given by former students from the preseminar at subsequent hearings. These young men today told what was happening behind the walls of the building near St. Peter. They said they saw Martinelli molesting their colleagues at the time. “It was a bad, unhealthy environment, with strong psychological pressure and constant homosexual comments,” said the 34-year-old man in his testimony, recalling the time spent there. As he added, “the rector knew everything, but he hid it”. He noted that it was not possible to complain to him because Martinelli, who was alleged to have committed the molestation, was his protégé.

It was the first trial for such acts committed in the Vatican. Adolescents with the preseminary go to church school and perform liturgical service in St. Peter’s Basilica as altar boys.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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