Catholic officials discounted warnings as they facilitated cleric’s rise; SNAP outraged

A recent review of documents from the ongoing Vatican trial of Fr. Gabriele Martinelli revealed that powerful figures within the Church hierarchy discounted warnings given about the seminary student before his ordination.

We are outraged by this news. The alerts given to Catholic officials about Seminarian Martinelli should have prompted both internal investigation and a report to law enforcement. We are stunned that the complete opposite happened and the Seminarian was ordained a priest.

In 2013, the accusations of sexual assault by Seminarian Martinelli had been received by the newly elected Pope Francis and several high-ranking Cardinals. An anonymous letter, as well as accounts from the victim and a witness, made them aware of a alleged sex crime that involved this then altar boy who served in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is shocking to learn that a little more than a decade after the Catholic debacle in Boston, the serious accusation that this young man assaulted a more junior student at St. Pius X in Vatican City was ignored. Seminarian Martinelle was ordained in 2017, despite the fact that Catholic officials would have known that as a clergyman he would have access to other vulnerable children.

However, thanks to coverage by Italian news outlets following the ordination, the Vatican reversed course and took a fresh look at this case. Fr. Martinelli, now 28 years of age, is on trial for sexual abuse. The prosecution of such a case is a first for the Vatican. The former rector of the youth seminary, Fr. Enrico Radice, is also facing charges of aiding and abetting the abuse.

To illustrate how out of touch Rome was with the current understanding of the dynamics of sexual abuse, a prominent Catholic official who spoke to reporters at the Washington Post on condition of anonymity said that the Vatican had believed that Fr. Martinelli "could not be accused of sex abuse" because he was only 221 days older than the youth that he assaulted. Clearly, Rome did not understand that abuse is not about sex, it is about power and control, and as a seminarian Fr. Martinelli apparently had that over his victim.

It also comes as no surprise to us that Catholic officials dismissed the accusations against Fr. Martinelli as "calumny." Pope Francis himself used this term to describe the allegations of victims in Chile as recently as 2018. The refusal of modern-day Vatican leadership to educate themselves about sexual abuse surely explains why very little, if anything, has changed about how cases are handled by them, even in their own backyard.

We hope that the Vatican trial will unveil the truth. We admire the courage of the victim and witnesses in calling out the largest and most influential religious organization on earth. We urge Vatican officials to learn about abuse and to stop dismissing the accusations of the brave men and women who speak out about the harm they suffered. Human life is more important than the reputation of the Catholic Church.

CONTACT: Michael McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

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