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Could laicized archbishop, former papal nuncio, be extradited to face abuse charges?

August 25, 2014

The case of a former Vatican envoy in the Dominican Republic, who has been laicized for molesting young boys, could test the Vatican’s determination to prosecute abusive clerics, a New York Times article suggests.

In a detailed report on the case of former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic, the New York Times observes that the Vatican did not inform civil authorities of evidence that the nuncio had engaged in sexual abuse of children.

The Times story reports that Wesolowski routinely preyed on young boys, until investigative reporters in the Dominican Republic uncovered evidence of his misconduct. When the Vatican learned of that evidence, in August 2013, the nuncio was quickly recalled to Rome.

In June of this year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith found Wesolowski guilty of sexual abuse, and the archbishop was laicized. He remains in Rome, pending an appeal of that canonical sentence, and could also face criminal charges before a Vatican tribunal.

However, the New York Times reports questions about whether the Vatican should have handed Wesolowski over to local officials. Vatican officials have noted that the nuncio enjoyed diplomatic immunity, and was not subject to prosecution. But questions remain as to whether the Vatican should have waived that immunity, whether Church officials should have informed local authorities about the charges against Wesolowski, and whether the former nuncio might still face criminal charges in the Dominican Republic.

The Vatican responded to the Times article by saying that officials had “moved without delay and correctly” by recalling the nuncio when evidence of his misconduct surfaced. The Vatican statement—released on August 25 by Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office—pointed out that Wesolowski has faced a Church tribunal, which gave him “the most serious canonical sentence,” by stripping him of his clerical status.

Wesolowski has appealed that canonical sentence, Father Lombardi said, and his appeal will be heard promptly, most likely in October. Once the canonical appeal is resolved, he will face criminal charges before a Vatican court.

Father Lombardi also revealed that since Wesolowski no longer has diplomatic immunity, “he might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.” That sentence left open the possibility that he could be extradited to face charges in the Dominican Republic.


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