Vatican convicts ex-diplomat of child porn distribution

The Vatican tribunal has convicted a former Holy See diplomat and sentenced him to five years in prison for possessing and distributing child pornography in the first such trial of its kind inside the Vatican.

Catholic priest Carlo Capella worked at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington

Vatican tribunal prosecutor Gian Piero Milano had asked for a stiffer sentence than five years in prison for Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella due to the 'great' amount of material seized. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Vatican tribunal on Saturday convicted a former Holy See diplomat and sentenced him to five years in prison for possessing and distributing child pornography in the first such trial of its kind inside the Vatican.

Monsignor Carlo Capella admitted to viewing the images during what he called a period of "fragility" and interior crisis sparked by a job transfer to the Vatican embassy in Washington. He apologized to his family and the Holy See, and appealed for leniency by saying the episode was just a "bump in the road" of a priestly vocation he loved and wanted to continue.

Tribunal President Giuseppe Dalla Torre read out the verdict after a two-day trial and sentenced Capella to five years and a fine of 5,000 euros ($7,750 Cdn).

Prosecutor Gian Piero Milano had asked for the sentence to be stiffer due to what he called the "great" amount of material seized, which included 40 to 55 photos, films and Japanese animation found on his cellphone, an iCloud and Tumblr account, which Capella accessed even after he had been recalled by the Vatican in August 2017.

Capella's lawyer disputed that Capella had distributed the material. He denied the amount of porn was excessive and noted that his client had co-operated with investigators, repented and was seeking psychological help.

The Vatican recalled Capella, the No. 4 official in its Washington embassy, after the U.S. State Department notified it of a "possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images" by one of its diplomats in Washington.

Canadian investigation

Soon after, Canadian police issued an arrest warrant for Capella, accusing him of having accessed, possessed and distributed child porn over the Christmas 2016 holiday from a church in Windsor, Ontario using a social networking site.

During the first day of the trial on Friday, prosecutors and Vatican investigators revealed that the material featuring children aged 14-17 engaged in sexual acts.

Capella admitted to having viewed the material during a period of internal crisis brought on by his job transfer from the Vatican secretariat of state to Washington. He said he realized now that it was vulgar and "improper."

Cited his 'fragility' and 'weakness'

During a final statement Saturday begging for the minimum sentence, Capella apologized for the pain his "fragility" and "weakness" had caused his family, his diocese and the Holy See.

"I hope that this situation can be considered a bump in the road" and that the case could also could be useful for the church, he said.

Capella was a high-ranking priest in the Vatican's diplomatic corps. He served on the Italy desk in the Vatican's secretariat of state and was part of the official delegation that negotiated a tax treaty with Italy before being posted to the U.S. embassy in 2016.

A canon lawyer, Capella is listed online as having written a 2003 paper for the Pontifical Lateran University on priestly celibacy and the church's criminal code.