Vatican announced on Monday that it will try its former envoy to the Dominican Republic on child sex abuse and child pornography charges.
A Vatican prosecutor asked the head of the Vatican City State tribunal to indict Jozef Wesolowski, 66, on Jun. 6, a decision that was announced yesterday. The first hearing is scheduled for July 11.
Jozef Wesolowski was an ambassador of the Vatican (apostolic nuncio) to the Dominican Republic for five years, from 2008 until he was recalled in August 2013 when allegations surfaced in the Caribbean country. The reports in the Dominican media led to a police investigation.
Wesolowski’s recall removed his diplomatic immunity, and he was defrocked by a church tribunal in June 2014. He is subject to the jurisdiction of the Vatican City State as a papal diplomat and citizen of the Vatican City State.
Elected in March 2013, Pope Francis is considered tough on clerics and employees of the church who exploit minors. He has promised to follow up on allegations and created a special new Vatican tribunal to try bishops accused of covering up sex crimes.
The Vatican City State updated its laws on July 11, 2013, making possession of child pornography a crime.
Wesolowski is being accused of having child pornography during his time in Rome from August 2013 until his arrest on Sept. 22, which the Vatican says he will be prosecuted under the new law.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told the Associated Press (AP) that Vatican’s old law would be used for the actual abuse charges because the alleged crime happened before the new law was passed.
A statement on the Vatican’s website said “With regard to the period spent in Rome, the nuncio is charged with the offence of possession of child pornography under Law VIII of 2013 introduced by Pope Francis.”
“The allegations referring to the preceding period are based on evidence transmitted by the judicial authorities of Santo Domingo in relation to the sexual abuse of minors,” the statement continued.
Lombardi told the AP that “Wesolowski is accused of sexually corrupting young people, of receiving child porn, causing psychological damage and engaging in conduct that “offends the principles of religion or morals.”
Vatican officials told the press that if convicted, Wesolowski would be sent to an Italian prison, or be extradited to the Dominican Republic, or Poland, his birthplace.