So what went wrong?
A medical doctor living in South Africa, Stephen Korsman, came across an account of Dr. Bacchiocchi's study at the university and found it difficult to believe that, as an Adventist, he would be allowed to study at the school, earn a doctorate with academic distinction, receive medals donated by the pope and have his dissertation published at the university with the imprimatur--acknowledgment--of the Catholic Church.
So Dr. Korsman, a devout Catholic, wrote the university and inquired about Dr. Bacchiocchi.
Unfortunately for the Adventist professor, an official at the university wrote to Dr. Korsman, and later others, that Dr. Bacchiocchi was wildly misrepresenting himself and his achievements.
Dr. Bergami wrote in June 2004 that Dr. Bacchiocchi did not graduate with high distinction (she said his grades "were not very good here"), that he received no medal from Pope Paul, that he was barred from publishing his dissertation in whole and that his work received no imprimatur.
After waiting in vain for church or school officials to set the record straight, Dr. Bacchiocchi is fighting back. He has posted extensive information about the situation on his Web site, including photos of the medals Pope Paul awarded him, his degree certificates, the document validating the imprimatur and more.
He acknowledges that his acceptance to the course of study in 1969 was the kind of thing that didn't happen every day.
"My acceptance at the Gregoriana in the fall of 1969 marked the admission of the first 'separated brother' into a regular study program in over 400 years of history of the university," he said.
School officials and fellow students treated him cordially and with respect during his study and for years afterwards. But his present-day detractors number even fellow Seventh-day Adventists, some of whom accuse him of secretly being a Jesuit. Outlandish rumors include the allegation that Dr. Bacchiocchi is "paid by the Vatican to do subversive activities" within the SDA Church.
The latest result of persecution from fellow Adventists "is the cancellation of my speaking engagement in Toronto, Canada, for Dec. 8-9, 2006," he said.
"In spite of the repeated efforts of Pastor Clarence Baptiste, a former student of mine, to reassure the board members that I am a genuine Adventist with no Jesuit connections of any kind, church-board members were brainwashed by an elder, and they succeeded in pressuring the pastor to cancel the invitation."
Ironically, Dr. Bacchiocchi has good things to say about Dr. Korsman, the M.D. from South Africa who at first was skeptical that an SDA could attend a school at the Vatican. "Rather than giving heed to gossip," Dr. Korsman "decided to learn the truth about me ..."
On his Web site, Dr. Bacchiocchi goes into great, even tedious, detail to answer his critics, chief among them Dr. Bergami of the university, who, in a letter to Bishop James Murray of the Kalamazoo Diocese in Michigan, enumerated her allegations against Dr. Bacchiocchi.
Dr. Bacchiocchi says he has repeatedly attempted to communicate with Bishop Murray, but the churchman apparently is avoiding him.
"My next step," Dr. Bacchiocchi said, "is to repackage all this information in an official document that will be sent both to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and to Bishop Murray ... I will simply ask them to help me to put an end to the raging controversy about me in cyberspace by issuing a retraction and an apology for their false allegations.
"If this happens, I will gladly forgive and forget all the pain they have caused me. If they stonewall by refusing to reply, as they have done until now, then legal action may be necessary."
See Dr. Bacchiocchi's detailed account, including Dr. Bergami's letter to Bishop Murray, at http://biblicalperspectives.com/Gregoriana/.