ROME – An Italian priest was acquitted on Wednesday of molesting another altar boy when they were both teenagers in the Vatican’s youth seminary, in the first criminal trial for alleged sexual abuse within the walls of the Vatican.
The Vatican Tribunal said in a statement that sexual relationships of “various types and intensities” had taken place between the accused, Rev. Gabriele Martinelli, and his accuser, who was only identified as LG, over a period of five years. However, it was said there was insufficient evidence that LG was forced into the relationship.
Substantial contradictions and “illogical explanations” by LG made it impossible to determine whether he was coerced into the acts, the statement said that he had not heard or seen anything.
Martinelli, now 29, has been accused of forcing LG to have sex, mostly when they were both minors. It was alleged that he used his authority as a senior seminarian to use violence and threats to force LG to “carnal acts” of sodomy and masturbation between 2006 and 2012.
The former rector of the seminary, Rev. Enrico Radice, was also charged with helping Martinelli evade investigators by discrediting LG’s allegations as unfounded. He was also acquitted of all charges on Wednesday.
Martinelli and Radice consistently denied the wrongdoing and accused LG of engaging in a personal campaign of revenge against them.
The scandal broke out in 2017 when former acolytes with allegations of wrongdoing by Martinelli and a cover-up by the superiors of the seminary of St. Pius X serve as acolytes at papal masses.
In previous hearings, former seminarians described a toxic, homophobic atmosphere in the closed world of the seminary, where some boys were bullied and where superiors did little to protect them.
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After LG and his former roommate Kamil Jarzembowski went public in 2017, Pope Francis waived the statute of limitations and allowed a criminal investigation to continue.
The scandal was particularly grave because the alleged abuse took place within Vatican City itself.
March, LG testified that Martinelli first molested him a few months after arriving at the 2006 seminary at the age of 13 from a small town in northern Italy. Martinelli was seven months older and a senior seminarian.