Vatican City — Three priests associated with a minor seminary located in the Vatican testified that they neither witnessed nor were informed of suspected cases of sexual abuse occurring at the school.
Taking the stand at the Vatican City State criminal court April 14, the three priests affiliated with the St. Pius X Pre-Seminary also cast doubt on the testimony of Kamil Jarzembowski, a former student who said he witnessed "dozens" of instances of abuse at the minor seminary.
Jarzembowski, the first former student to speak publicly of abuse at the seminary, told the court March 26 he saw Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, who at the time was a student at the seminary, enter the dormitory room he shared with L.G., the student Martinelli is accused of abusing.
The abuse was said to have occurred between 2007 and 2012. Although both were under the age of 18 when the abuse was said to have begun, the court accused the priest of continuing to abuse the younger student when Martinelli, not yet a priest, was already 20.
Msgr. Enrico Radice, the former rector of the seminary, also is standing trial and is accused of hindering the investigation into the abuse allegations. The seminary and the Opera Don Folci, the religious institution that runs the minor seminary, are accused of failing to protect the young students.
Fr. Angelo Magistrelli, the current rector and superior of the Opera Don Folci, testified that he was made aware of the suspected abuse only through news reports.
"No one, no one, not bishops, priests, pre-seminarians, or the women" who cook and clean at the school "ever mentioned sexual problems" during the time the abuse was said to have occurred, Magistrelli said.
The rector also described Jarzembowski as a "complex character," whose public accusations of abuse were an act "of fierce revenge."
"Kamil was offended at having been dismissed in an undignified manner and said he had the right to finish his studies. We explained to him that due to his behavior, he could not be readmitted. He held a grudge and promised vengeance," Magistrelli said.
The current rector said the publicity has not hurt the seminary. In fact, he said, "the more the (television) transmissions speak ill of us, the more requests we receive. The pre-seminary has never thrived like this; at the moment, we have 16 adolescents, 10 university students and a wonderful education team."
Similarly, Fr. Enzo Pacelli, the former head of Sant'Apollinare, a school where Jarzembowski studied, said the former student had "psychopathic tendencies" and would often argue with his teachers.
Lastly, Fr. Luigi Portarulo, former vice rector at the St. Pius X and a former student, described the accused Martinelli as someone with a "strong character" who was "passionate about liturgy."
He also defended Msgr. Radice as someone who was available to help students in need, and he denied ever hearing about any suspected abuse at the minor seminary.
"Absolutely not. There was nothing abnormal," Portarulo said.