On Tuesday, January 23, a Vatican appeals court sentenced a priest to two-and-a-half years in prison. The priest was convicted of sexually abusing teenagers at a Vatican City school for altar boys.
In the ongoing case, Gabriele Martinelli, a former student at the St Pius X pre-seminary who later became a priest, faced allegations of assaulting another altar boy during his time at the institution, predating his entry into the clergy.
This trial marked the first instance of a Vatican criminal court addressing allegations of sex abuse or cover-ups within Vatican territory.
During the previous trial, the judges determined that Gabriele Martinelli and his accuser had participated in various sexual acts, but due to a “lack of evidence,” they couldn’t establish that these acts were non-consensual.
The sexual relationship between the two began in 2007 when Martinelli was 14 and continued until 2012. Following the initial trial, the acquittal was challenged, and the charges were redefined to include corrupting a minor.
On Tuesday, the appellate judges found Gabriele Martinelli guilty and handed him a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence along with a 1,000-euro fine, as indicated by the decision reviewed by AFP.
The appeals court said Martinelli “is not liable for the contested acts up until August 2, 2008, since he was less than 16 years old.”
However, he was deemed responsible for the actions committed between August 9, 2008, and March 19, 2009, as during that period, he was considered to have reached sexual maturity, whereas his victim had not.
“We are certainly very happy,” Laura Sgro, the lawyer for the victim, told AFP.
“This is an important day for my client because after so many years of suffering, his hardship and the violence he underwent was actually acknowledged, so it was a very important moment,” she added.
“The hope is that this ruling can somehow still give an even deeper reflection on sexual abuse in the Church,” Sgro said.
The Saint-Pius X pre-seminary, where boys with an interest in the priesthood and who assist in St Peter’s Basilica’s masses are accommodated, was situated adjacent to Pope Francis’s residence. In 2021, the Holy See announced plans to move the institute away from Vatican grounds to be nearer to a private school in central Rome where the boys attend their classes.
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