Vatican diplomat sentenced to five years in prison for child pornography crimes

A Vatican court indicted Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, and ordered him to stand trial beginning June 22 on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. (CNS photo) 

A Vatican tribunal has condemned Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former diplomat for the Holy See, to five years in prison and a fine of 5,000 euro for the possession, sharing and transmission of child pornography in a large quantity while serving at the Holy See’s nunciature in Washington, D.C.

The tribunal issued its verdict on June 23. The Vatican prosecutor had asked for a sentence of five years and nine months in prison and a fine of 10,000 euro.

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It is the first time that a Vatican official has been condemned for such a crime, and the penalty reflects the seriousness with which the Vatican considers this offense under the “zero-tolerance” policy of Pope Francis. “It sends a clear signal”,a senior Vatican official told America

Msgr. Capella admitted his guilt during the first day of the trial in the Vatican on June 22, in the presence of the Vatican City State’s judges—Giuseppe Della Torre, Venerando Marano and Carlo Bonzano—and the prosecutor, Roberto Zannotti.

It is the first time that a Vatican official has been condemned for such a crime.

The Italian monsignor has been in prison in the Vatican since April 7, after the prosecutor concluded an investigation, which began in September 2017 following a notification from the U.S. State Department the previous month of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by Msgr. Capella.

Then, in September, Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for him after police in Ontario discovered that he had accessed, possessed and distributed child pornography during his 2016 Christmas in Windsor. During his investigation, the Vatican prosecutor gained international cooperation to obtain evidence relevant to the case.

After he concluded the investigation, in conjunction with the judicial authorities, he ordered the arrest of the monsignor based on a section of the Vatican City State penal code that deals specifically with the possession and distribution of child pornographic material and envisages both prison sentences and financial penalties for the same. Msgr. Capella was indicted on June 9.

At the sentencing trial, which opened on June 21, the 51-year-old monsignor was present together with a psychologist, Tommaso Parisi, who has been helping him since his arrest.

Capella revealed that he did not enjoy his work in D.C. and experienced a “personal crisis.”

Msgr. Capella, in his deposition, recalled how he had been a priest of the Milan archdiocese until, at Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s request, he joined the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 2003. A year later, he was assigned to work in the Holy See’s missions, first in India and three years later at its “study mission” in Hong Kong.

In 2011, he said he was recalled to work in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and was happy there, but—much to his dislike—he was sent to work in the nunciature in Washington, D.C., in 2016. He revealed that he did not enjoy his work in D.C. and experienced a “personal crisis”; he had “little work, few friends and felt useless.” All this led him to go online looking for amusing memes and pictures of animals to relieve his personal desolation and boredom.

Asked by the prosecutor how all this led to his use of child pornography, Msgr. Capella revealed that before his crisis “this kind of morbidness” had never been part of his “priestly life,” but in his “internal conflict,” which he said he had “underestimated,” he began to use the social media site Tumblr on July 23, 2016, to find these humorous images, and this led to his slide into pornographic images and eventually child pornography. He said he began using Tumblr’s chat function to exchange images and engage in “vulgar” conversations with other persons. All of which, he said he now considers “repugnant.”

Dr. Parisi said Msgr. Capella is “aware of his role” in the crimes and admits his errors.

The prosecutor called two witnesses to give testimony at the trial: a psychologist who had helped him since last October and a computer engineer who works with the Vatican Gendarme and examined Msgr. Capella’s electronic devices.

His psychologist, Dr. Parisi told the tribunal that he first met Msgr. Capella in October 2017, after he asked for assistance. He revealed that Msgr. Capella had trouble sleeping then, and so he prescribed medication. Since then, they met twice weekly. Dr. Parisi said Msgr. Capella is “aware of his role” in the crimes and admits his errors.

The Italian computer engineer, Gianluca Gauzzi, told the court that during the investigation he examined three cell phones, two USB drives and several hard drives. He said that he found some 40 to 55 videos and photos in his investigation in the United States, which were held on a cloud storage space that had been deleted from other devices. He said he divided the images into two primary categories: one for images from Japanese comics and the other for images of children aged 14 to 17 engaged in sexual acts with adults. He revealed that at least one video showed a child depicted in an explicit sex act with an adult. He confirmed that monsignor had asked for images of children between the ages of 14 and 16. He said the images were exchanged by the monsignor in chats with other persons.

The monsignor’s lawyer, Roberto Borgogno, told the press that his client “has admitted certain things” but seeks “to diminish” what has been reported about him outside the court.

A Vatican source told America that as a cleric the priest could also be subject to a judicial process conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith relating to “the most serious delicts,” which Benedict XVI promulgated on May 21, 2010, that revised and updating the earlier norms of the Motu Proprio issued by St. John Paul II in 2001, known as “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.” Article 6 introduced the norms that deal specifically with pornography.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Harvey Milk, MD
2 months 3 weeks ago

Castration would have been appropriate. It is a punishment that should be included when deviants like this animal do such evil things.

Robin Smith
2 months 3 weeks ago

Where did you read he raped anyone? Then you might have a point. He looked. That needs psychiatric help.

Christopher Lochner
2 months 3 weeks ago

Certsinly, he will seek "to diminish" what has been reported about him. As the old joke goes, no one in prison is guilty due to consideration of extenuating circumstances. I wonder if the prison will be, umm, the lavish type with luxury accommodations.

Robin Smith
2 months 3 weeks ago

Is defrocking in his future or will he serve his sentence, pay his fine & then be transferred?

Christopher Lochner
2 months 3 weeks ago

And ( we all cry) the breakdown in society is certainly inclusive of the Church. The gates of hell may not prevail but they sure are rattling things.

Bruce Snowden
2 months 3 weeks ago

Death by crucifixion was in every way nasty, with the executed criminals left hanging on the cross, sometimes for days before death came, sometimes defecating on themselves Those left hanging were devoured by animals some while still alive. Burial was denied them, so they became animal food!

Thank God Jesus didn’t go through that degradation , dying on the Cross approximately three hours after the hanging. He was removed from the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea, who according to Gerhard Lohfink in his great book, “Jesus Of Nazareth What He Wanted, Who He Was,” says Joseph was an “occasional helper” a kind of clandestine disciple, of which Jesus had arranged different types, none greater than the other.

We all know that the Apostle Peter chose upsidedown crucifixion, feeling unworthy to be executed the same way Jesus was. I once read somewhere that Peter remained alive on his cross for more than one day, but animals did not attack him. If he defecated it was all over himself as he was positioned to allow that to happen! Using that probability I think it quite accurate to say that ever since that time, the Church of which Peter was Leader, has defecated on Itself over and over again, the latest example the conduct of Vatican diplomat, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella. Mentioning also Cardinal Mc Carrick .

All through Church History one finds trickles of defecation, defiling the face of the Body of Christ. Capella blames what he did on loneliness and dislike of his job. Why at those moments did he not kneel before the Blessed Sacrament In prayer? The answers to all his problems awaited him and others, there!

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

Why wasn't he allowed to be prosecuted by civil authorities in the countries in which he committed the crimes?

How is the Vatican going to keep him in "prison" for 5 years when there is no prison in Vatican City?

How would being lonely and not sleeping well and disliking their job turn someone into a child pornographer?

I would guess that the Vatican and the priesthood in general is rife with child pornography.

arthur mccaffrey
2 months 3 weeks ago

I don't think jail time would help this guy...I think he needs therapy or else a free pass to a local bordello. I would not rate him as bad as a pedophile since the only person he has hurt so far is himself. But we got to get him out of that uniform and make sure the Vatican pays his medical bills. Too bad vulnerable young men are abandoned by their so called "mentors" who leave them to their own devices, without support. Whatever happened to the idea of an older "confessor" who was supposed to look after these immature people? If this was the army he would be in a stockade by now serving a jail sentence. Will the Vatican treat him in a more humane way?

Christopher Lochner
2 months 3 weeks ago

The problem is in our very short attention spans. There will be no follow up to the story and no one has the time to research it. There will be much talk of Mercy and forgiveness. Then, the situation will end up like Bernie Law living in his little palace. Jesus weeps.

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