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Archbishop defrocked

June 27, 2014

A Catholic archbishop and papal nuncio has been defrocked after his conviction for sexually abusing teenage boys. He is the most senior Vatican figure to be punished for such a crime.

Josef Wesolowski Botschafter Vatikans in der Dominikanischen Republik
Image: Reuters

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's eccleseastical diplomat for the Dominican Republic and former Holy See ambassador, has been defrocked after being convicted of sexually abusing teenage boys.

The Vatican said on Friday that the Polish-born cleric was found guilty of sex abuse by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the modern-day successor to the Inquisition.

The sentence is the harshest penalty the tribunal can rule against a cleric under canon law. It strips him of his duties and status as a priest. Wesolowski could now face criminal charges by the Vatican tribunal with a jail sentence if found guilty.

The Vatican issued a brief statement but gave no information about the crimes themselves or when they were committed.

Wesolowski will have two months to appeal the ruling. He is a citizen of the independent Vatican City State which can detain or limit the movements of those subject to its jurisdiction.

The United Nations watchdog body against torture last month called on the Vatican to investigate the Wesolowski case and ascertain whether it warranted criminal prosecution or extradition for the former archbishop to face charges in the Dominican Republic.

Wesolowski was recalled by the Vatican from his post as nuncio to the Dominican Republic last August after the archbishop of Santo Domingo reported rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys.

Dominican authorities opened an investigation but did not bring charges as Wesolowski had diplomatic immunity. Poland also opened an investigation.

The largest group representing victims of clerical sexual abuse welcomed the ruling but called for a criminal trial, either in the Dominican Republic or in Wesolowski's native Poland. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said: "It's encouraging when child-molesting clerics are disciplined, but we are troubled by the Vatican's continued insistence on handling child sex crimes internally."

Pope Francis is due to meet victims of clerical sexual abuse for the first time next week. Last month, Pope Francis pledged "zero tolerance" for anyone in the Church who abused children, and likened sexual abuse to a "satanic Mass."

jm/msh (Reuters, AFP)