The Vatican Sex Abuse Trial Comes to an End With a Request for a Six-Year Sentence for the Priest.
Before he became a priest, Gabriele Martinelli was accused of repeatedly abusing a fellow boarder at a seminary for altar boys. The rector of the seminary has been accused of turning a blind eye.
The first trial involving allegations of sexual abuse within the walls of Vatican City concluded this week, with a prosecutor requesting a six-year prison sentence for one defendant, who is now a priest. The case is expected to conclude in October.
The prosecutor, Roberto Zannotti, stated during his closing arguments on Thursday that the Rev. Gabriele Martinelli, now 28, repeatedly abused another youth known only by his initials, L.G., during the five years the two were boarders at the seminary for young boys who serve as altar servers in St. Peter's Basilica.
L.G. stated that he was 13 years old at the time of the abuse, seven months younger than his fellow youth seminary resident, Father Martinelli.
Mr. Zannotti also requested that another priest on trial, the Rev. Enrico Radice, serve four years in prison for turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of L.G. at the youth seminary.
Defense attorneys maintain that no abuse occurred, though they expressed dissatisfaction with the initial narrative that emerged in Italian media, portraying the case as an example of pedophilia occurring within the Vatican's walls.
Mr. Zannotti contended that Gabriele Martinelli was a dominant figure at the seminary, capable of coercing L.G. into doing his bidding by offering enticing rewards such as serving mass with the pope in exchange for sexual favors.
He referred to the events as "acts of violence" that were permitted to continue because Father Radice, the seminary's then-rector, defended the accused abuser. Mr. Zannotti stated that the rector's "behavior is even more serious" because of his role and obstinacy in concealing facts that were obvious to all.
The case garnered international attention in part because the institution — St. Pius X youth seminary — is located directly across the street from Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis' residence, who has done more than any other pontiff to end the scourge of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in the Roman Catholic Church.
Francis has enacted new legislation, established a commission to protect minors, and convened a global summit at the Vatican in 2019 to educate and empower his bishops.
Dario Imparato, a lawyer for L.G., described the environment at the youth seminary as "foul, noxious, and rotten" in his closing remarks on Thursday. The case exemplified the "failure of small, closed communities that are impermeable to the outside," he said, adding that it was only the "tip of the iceberg."
The alleged abuse occurred between 2007 and 2012, when L.G. graduated from the youth seminary. Father Martinelli was ordained a priest in 2017 and now resides in northern Italy at a residence for senior priests.
The allegations against Father Martinelli and Father Radice first surfaced in 2013, following the election of Pope Francis. At the time, an investigation initiated by the bishop of Como, northern Italy, where the order that oversees the seminary is headquartered, determined that the accusations were without merit.
It was not until 2017, when the allegations against the two priests were made public in a book and an investigative television program, that a new investigation was launched, leading to the start of the Vatican trial last October.
The prosecution's case is almost entirely based on L.G.'s complaint and the testimony of another boarder at the youth seminary, Kamil Jarzembowski, a Polish student who shared a room with L.G. and stated that he witnessed the alleged abuse twice or three times per week for the majority of his stay at the seminary.
There have been no additional witnesses. According to Agnese Camilli Carissimi, a lawyer representing Father Radice, other seminarians were likely to have witnessed such frequent incidents of abuse.
One of the defense attorneys, Emanuela Bellardini, referred to Mr. Jarzembowski as the case's "deus ex machina," whose accusations on the television show "Le Iene" brought the case to public attention.
Mr. Jarzembowski was expelled from the seminary for failing to follow the rules, and defense attorneys contended that his accusations against Father Martinelli and Father Radice were motivated by vengeance and financial gain. He and L.G. have filed a lawsuit against the Opera Don Folci, the Como-based order that oversees the seminary, seeking compensation for the alleged suffering they have endured.
Pope Francis directed in May that the residence be relocated outside the Vatican before the start of the next academic year in September.
This week, attorneys for the Opera Don Folci, Father Martinelli, and Father Radice concluded their defense, denying that sexual abuse occurred at the youth seminary. They pleaded with the court to exonerate the two priests of all charges.
“This trial should never have occurred,” Father Martinelli's attorney, Rita Claudia Baffioni, said Friday. The prosecution was never able to establish any wrongdoing, she stated.
Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican court, stated that the verdict would be issued on Oct. 6. “Each contribution was priceless,” he stated. “At this point, the court has jurisdiction.”