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Vatican police arrest former papal nuncio, will prosecute on sex-abuse charges

September 23, 2014

Vatican police have arrested Josef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic, who will now face criminal charges for sexual abuse.

Then-Archbishop Wesolowski was recalled from his post in the Dominican Republic in August 2013, after the Vatican was presented with evidence that he had molested young boys. In June of this year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) found him guilty of sexual abuse and he was stripped of his clerical status. Shortly thereafter, the Vatican announced that Wesolowski would be liable to criminal prosecution, which would begin after a Vatican tribunal heard his appeal of the canonical sentence imposed by the CDF.

The case of the disgraced archbishop had been watched closely, as an indication of the rigor with which the Vatican under Pope Francis would prosecute a ranking prelate. That question was answered when, following his canonical appeal, the Vatican’s criminal tribunal opened a hearing on criminal charges and ordered his arrest.

Wesolowski argued that because of health problems, he should not be held in one of the small holding cells in the Vatican’s police headquarters, which are the only detention facilities under the Vatican city-state. The tribunal accepted that argument, placing him under house arrest. If he is convicted and sentenced to a prison term, he might serve that sentence in an Italian prison, under the terms of an agreement between the Vatican and the Italian government.

Prosecutors in both the Dominican Republic had expressed interest in pressing criminal charges against the former nuncio. However there was no clear path to prosecution in the Caribbean nation, because Wesolowski held diplomatic immunity and because there is no formal extradition treaty between the Dominican Republic and the Holy See. In August 2014 the Vatican said that Wesolowski no longer held diplomatic immunity, and could be subject to prosecution. Thus the question was raised as to whether he might face charges before a Vatican tribunal or a Dominican court. (His native country, Poland, had also expressed interest in prosecuting Wesolowski.) The September 23 arrest seems to resolve that question; the Vatican tribunal will hear the criminal charges.


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