Former papal nuncio faces Vatican child sex abuse charges

Defrocked Archbishop Josef Wesolowski may also face charges in Poland, Dominican Republic

A file photograph of Josef Wesolowski, former papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic, who is facing paedophile charges. Photograph: Erika Santelices/ AFP/Getty Images.

A file photograph of Josef Wesolowski, former papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic, who is facing paedophile charges. Photograph: Erika Santelices/ AFP/Getty Images.

 

The Holy See has said the controversial former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, is now under investigation by Vatican City state prosecutors on charges of paedophile crime.

Archbishop Wesolowski, who was defrocked in June by a Vatican canon law court which found him guilty of child sex abuse, has been placed under house arrest in the Vatican.

If and when the 66-year-old former Nuncio is brought to trial, this will represent the first time that a senior Vatican official faces criminal charges of child sex abuse.

Commenting on this case last January, senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi indicated that, as a Vatican City state citizen, Archbishop Wesolowski would be tried in both a canon law court and subsequently in a Vatican City state court.

Last month, Fr Lombardi also pointed out that as an ex-nuncio, Archbishop Wesolowski no longer enjoyed diplomatic status, adding that he “might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.”

It is believed that prosecutors in both the Dominican Republic and Poland may yet want to press charges against the former nuncio. The office of the Dominican Republic’s attorney general confirmed yesterday that it was seeking information on the case from the Vatican City State judiciary whilst media reports in January claimed that Poland had wanted to extradite Archbishop Wesolowski.

The former nuncio’s case resurfaced last month, following a report in the New York Times which provided details and first hand evidence of his paedophile acitivities in Santo Domingo. Victims claimed that Archbishop Wesolowski used to “cruise” the oceanfront promenade, looking for shoeshine boys to whom he would offer modest sums of money ($10 dollars) in return for sexual favours. It is alleged that sometimes, he simply wanted to watch the boys swim naked.

Allegations of improper behaviour were made against Archbishop Wesolowski last year by a TV channel in the Dominican Repubic which claimed that during his five years (2008 – 2013) as papal nuncio there, he had regularly frequented an area in Santa Domingo, well known for child prostitution.

When the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Nicolás de Jesus López Rodríguez, informed Pope Francis of the rumours circulating about his nuncio, Archbishop Wesolowski was last August hurriedly recalled to Rome.

Fr Lombardi was last night keen to point out how this latest judicial action was a reflection of Pope Francis’s concern about the clerical sex abuse issue, saying: “The initiative taken by the judicial departments of Vatican City State is a result of the express desire of the Pope, so that a case so serious and delicate would be addressed without delay, with just and necessary rigor, and with full assumption of responsibility on the part of the institutions that are governed by the Holy See.”

Given recently enacted legislation on paedophile crime, Archbishop Wesolowski could face a prison sentence if found guilty by the Vatican City state authorities. As of now, it is unclear where he would serve such a sentence given that the Holy See has no proper prison facilities.