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Pope Francis greets Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta.

By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Nov 20, 2019

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.  

Did you think the McCarrick case hurt Pope Francis’ reputation as a reformer? The Zanchetta case is far more damaging.

In January I wrote that the prosecution of Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta was potentially “a fatal blow to the Pope’s reputation as a reformer,” since it was Pope Francis—clearly, unequivocally, personally—who promoted and protected the Argentine prelate. Now a prosecutor in Argentina has issued an international appeal for Zanchetta’s arrest, fearing that the troubled bishop may drop out of sight to avoid prosecution—if he hasn’t done so already. So the question is whether the Pope is, even now, sheltering an accused bishop from prosecution.

A quick recap of the story to date:

  • In July 2013, Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta as Bishop of Oran, Argentina. This was one of the new Pope’s first appointments, and in this case he was not merely ratifying someone else’s choice. The Pope, as former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was well acquainted with Zanchetta, who had served on the staff of the Argentinean bishops’ conference in Argentina.

  • Barely four years later, in August 2017, Bishop Zanchetta resigned, citing health reasons, at the age of 53. At the time—and to this date—he has shown no signs of ill health. Vatican officials said that he had been encouraged to resign because of his deficiencies as an administrator. ….