Papa Murphy is the first person to be charged in the scandal that has shaken the Italian papacy, with prosecutors announcing Tuesday they are investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against the 84-year-old pontiff.
Murphy was arrested in a police raid on his home in Rome on Monday, and he has denied wrongdoing.
The charges, which could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years, were announced by prosecutors in Rome.
They are the first criminal charges in the case, which was launched in December, after a former employee of the office of the Vatican’s chief prosecutor filed a complaint.
“Papa Murphy has been charged with crimes that are absolutely scandalous,” said Rome prosecutor Maria Dolores de Angelis.
“He was the only man in the Vatican who was entrusted with the papal office at that time.”
He has denied any wrongdoing.
According to the Rome prosecutor, Murphy, who is from the western city of Trento, is accused of sexual abuse of minors, having an illegitimate son and taking part in orgies.
He is also accused of having a secret relationship with the former secretary of state for his former wife, a woman named Lucia di Lavorato, who has been under house arrest since the case was announced in December.
The Vatican’s secretary of State, Cardinal Antonio Maria Viganò, resigned in October, citing an abuse scandal at the Vatican.
In a statement Tuesday, the Vatican said it would conduct an internal investigation into allegations of abuse.
“We are convinced that no priest, no Catholic Church official or layman, and no person can, with the slightest chance of justification, abuse minors, which is precisely what these accusations are all about,” the statement read.
“It is also our conviction that the investigation and the findings will provide the necessary and appropriate evidence for a full and thorough investigation of these crimes, and to the full extent of the law.”