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Vatican appeals court finds pre-seminary rector guilty of ‘corrupting minors’

The Vatican City Court of Appeals has found Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, the former rector of a pre-seminary in the city state, guilty of corruption of a minor.

Credit: Thoom / Shutterstock.


Martinelli has received a sentence of 2.5 years in prison and a 1,000 euro fine. The Vatican announced the verdict Tuesday.

The ruling partially overturns a lower court’s 2021 decision, which acquitted the priest due to insufficient evidence.

The 31-year-old priest had been accused of repeated sexual abuse at the Pius X Pre-seminary, where 12-18 year old boys live and discern the priesthood. The boys also serve at papal Masses.

The pre-seminary is run by the religious group, the Opera Don Folci. It was located within Vatican City until Pope Francis ordered it to be relocated in 2021.

A man identified as L.G. says Martinelli abused him from 2007-2012, beginning when L.G. was 13 years old.

Martinelli, who is less than one year older than L.G., was also a student at the pre-seminary. He was later ordained a priest for the Diocese of Como in Italy.

Martinelli had initially been acquitted by the Vatican Tribunal due to insufficient evidence.

The tribunal had ruled in October 2021 that Martinelli could not be punished for the allegations that occurred while he was a minor. For the allegations after his 16th birthday —  in August 2008 — the court ruled the sexual acts in question “were proven in their materiality,” but that there was no certainty that they had been coerced.

The appeals court, presided over by Bishop Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, said that although there was no proof of coercion, the priest could still be found guilty of a different crime, that of “corruption of minors,” for acts that took place when Martinelli was an adult and L.G. was a minor.

While the lower court said the statute of limitations had closed on the “corruption of minors” charge, the appeals court ruled that there was a period of time during which the sexual acts had taken place for which the statute of limitations had not expired.

Martinelli maintains his innocence. He has repeatedly denied the allegations, suggesting that they are an attack on the pre-seminary.

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