Two priests cleared of charges in Vatican sexual abuse trial
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Vatican judges on Wednesday (Oct. 6) cleared two priests of charges related to alleged sexual abuse of an underage student at the Pius X Pre-seminary, a boarding school that trains boys 12 and up to be altar servers at the Vatican.
A student at the seminary had claimed that between 2007 and 2012 he was verbally and physically abused by another student, Gabriele Martinelli, who later became a priest. The rector of the institution at the time, Monsignor Enrico Radice, was acquitted of charges he had covered up and hindered the investigations into the alleged abuse.
The Vatican tribunal established that the sexual relations “of various nature and intensity” between Martinelli and the young man actually occurred but stated that “there isn’t enough proof that the victim was forced with ‘violence or threat.’”
Radice and Martinelli were cleared of all charges, though some of the claims against Martinelli were dismissed as not punishable because they may have occurred while he was still a minor, and a remaining charge against him of corrupting minors was dropped because it was barred by a statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations had also expired for an accusation against Radice that he had not taken immediate and appropriate actions when the allegations first came to light in 2013.
Students at the 70-year-old seminary told the Vatican court that they experienced an “unhealthy” environment at Pius X, with students and superiors engaging in offensive language and behavior. As details of the students’ experience emerged earlier this year, Pope Francis moved the seminary outside the Vatican walls.
“One couldn’t say beyond any reasonable doubt because here the doubts were plenty,” said Rita Claudia Baffioni, Martinelli’s lawyer, adding that the prosecution’s case had “infinite gaps.” She said that there were no witnesses to the alleged instances of abuse.
The lawyer representing the seminary, a civil party in the proceedings, said that Radice was “a priest who lived his ministry with deep faith and helped the young boys, especially the most needy, in a material, spiritual and moral way,” adding that the alleged victim was among the young men Radice helped the most.