Vatican defrocks ex-ambassador in sex abuse case


VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has defrocked its former
ambassador to the Dominican Republic for sexually abusing boys. It’s the
first time a top papal envoy has been convicted of the crime and
signals that Pope Francis is serious about imposing "zero tolerance" for
abuse, regardless of rank.
The Vatican said Friday that
Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski was found guilty by the Vatican’s
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and sentenced to the harshest
penalty possible against a cleric under canon law: laicization, meaning
he can no longer perform priestly duties or present himself as a
Wesolowski has two months to appeal. After the canonical
case is finished, he faces a separate criminal trial in the Vatican City
State’s tribunal, which could carry a jail term if he is convicted.
Vatican said it would take "adequate measures" to ensure Wesolowski
doesn’t flee pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
The Vatican has never said how Wesolowski responded to the charges and hasn’t provided contact
information for his lawyer.
case against Wesolowski has been closely watched, given the grave
nature of the charges. It has also been a test of Francis’ willingness
to sanction even a high-ranking Vatican official for a crime the Holy
See has long sought to blame on wayward priests, not direct
representatives of the pope.
Francis has told reporters, though,
"there were no privileges" for anyone who violated a child and promised
"zero tolerance" for abuse at all levels.
The Holy See recalled
the Polish-born Wesolowski on Aug. 21, and relieved him of his job after
the archbishop of Santo Domingo told Francis about rumors that
Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Dominican Republic.
Prosecutors there say he allegedly paid boys to masturbate.
authorities opened an investigation, but never charged him on the
grounds that Wesolowski had diplomatic immunity. Poland, too, opened an
On Friday, the Dominican prosecutor general, Francisco Domínguez Brito, expressed satisfaction with the
canonical verdict.
"This decision paves the way for a penal sentence, which should condemn him," he said.
President Danilo Medina said Francis had told him during an audience at
the Vatican that Wesolowski would be sanctioned with the toughest
penalty available.
Polish prosecutor Katarzyna Calow-Jaszewska
said the conviction "doesn’t change the situation in our proceedings for
the time being."
Wesolowski’s case had initially raised questions
about whether the Vatican, by extracting him from Dominican
jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations
ahead of those in the Caribbean nation.
The case was cited by two
U.N. committees that grilled the Vatican earlier this year on its sex
abuse record. But Vatican officials assured committee members that
justice would be served.
As a papal diplomat and citizen of the
Vatican City State, Wesolowski faces criminal charges by the tribunal of
Vatican City, which recently updated its laws to specifically
criminalize sex abuse of children. It is not clear, however, if the new
law can be applied retroactively.
His case has been particularly
delicate because Wesolowski was ordained as both a priest and a bishop
by his Polish countryman and former pope, St. John Paul II.
Ezequiel Lopez Blanco in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland

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