VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Vatican tribunal absolved a former altar boy of charges that he molested a younger boy in the Vatican’s youth seminary, ruling Wednesday in the first clergy sexual abuse trial to be heard by the pope’s criminal court.
The three-judge panel acquitted Rev. Gabriele Martinelli of some charges and ruled others couldn’t be punished. The former rector of the seminary, the Rev. Enrico Radice, was similarly absolved.
The case concerned the closed world of the St. Pius X youth seminary, a palazzo inside the Vatican walls just across the street from where Pope Francis lives. The seminary serves as a residence for boys aged 12 to 18, who serve as altar boys at papal Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The scandal over alleged abuses in the residence erupted in 2017 when former altar boys went public with allegations of misconduct by Martinelli and cover-up by the seminary superiors. Their accusations greatly undermined Francis’ pledge of “zero tolerance” for abuse since the acts allegedly occurred on Vatican territory.
Martinelli had denied he molested the presumed victim, L.G., saying the allegations were unfounded, implausible and the fruit of “jealousy” by other seminarians because he was eventually ordained a priest. Radice denied knowing anything about abuse or of impeding the probe.
During the trial, some former seminarians had testified about a homophobic environment in the residence and about younger boys being bullied. Others, however, testified that the boys were happy and that the rector checked the dorms at night and never heard or saw any abuse.