The Vatican has announced that Jozef Wesolowski, the Holy See’s former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, will stand trial in the Vatican City State “accused of a number of counts” related to the sexual abuse of minors during his period of diplomatic service in the Central American state, as well as for the possession of child pornography during his stay in Rome before his arrest.
The trial will begin on July 11 in the Tribunal, the Vatican announced today, June 15. The first session could be open to the public, but the subsequent ones are likely to be held behind closed doors, Father Federico Lombardi, the Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, told reporters in Rome. Vatican prosecutors may also request to question witnesses in the Dominican Republic.
The Polish-born prelate, 66, was arrested by Vatican gendarmes on 22 September 2014 because of “the gravity of the accusations” against him relating to allegations that he had sexually abused boys during his period as the Holy See’s nuncio in the Dominican Republic. He was then placed under house arrest inside the Vatican City State. He was not committed to prison then because of his “medical condition.” (http://americamagazine.org/issue/shock-waves-rome)
Last December, Father Lombardi confirmed that the criminal investigation of Wesolowski was underway, but said that since the period of house arrest envisaged by the law had expired, the former nuncio was granted a certain degree of freedom of movement, but could not leave the Vatican City State.
Six months earlier, in June 2014, Archbishop Wesolowski was dismissed from the priesthood and returned to the lay state after a judicial proceeding had been conducted according to the Church’s Code of Canon Law by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Even before that verdict, the Vatican had removed his status as a diplomat of the Holy See with its relative privileges and immunity.
On the flight back from Tel Aviv on 26 May 2014, when Pope Francis was asked what he would do with bishops who do not abide by the new Vatican regulations regarding those who abuse or fail to protect minors from sexual abuse by priests, he recalled that in Argentina those “who get special treatment” are called “Daddy’s boys”; but he said that in the Church “as far as this problem is concerned...there is no special treatment,” and “on this issue we need to keep moving forward: zero tolerance!” The Wesolowski trial is clear evidence of this.
He made it clear again on 7 July 2014 when he met six abuse survivors in the Vatican, and on other occasions too, that the age of immunity and impunity in the Catholic Church is over. Any cleric – at whatever level in the clerical state or in the hierarchy – who sexually abuses minors or other vulnerable persons, or fails to protect them, as well as those who protect perpetrators or cover up their crimes will be punished.
Last week, moving forward with determination with his ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, set up a special Vatican tribunal, within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), to judge bishops who are negligent in the protection of minors from predator priests or other Church personnel.
This will be the first trial ever in Vatican City State regarding pornography, and while there have been many trials regarding the abuse of minors in the Vatican, it might also be the first to come before this tribunal.
Note: The following statement was issued by the Vatican today, June 15, regarding Wesolowski’s trial:
The President of the Tribunal of Vatican City State, Professor Giuseppe Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, by decree of 6 June 2015 in response to the request submitted by the Office of the Promoter of Justice, has ordered the trial of the former apostolic nuncio to Dominican Republic, Józef Wesołowski.
The first hearing of the trial is scheduled for 11 July 2015. The ex-prelate is accused of a number of offences committed both during his stay in Rome from August 2013 until the moment of his arrest (on 22 September 2014) and in the period he spent in the Dominican Republic, during the five years in which he held the office of apostolic nuncio (he was appointed as nuncio to the Dominican Republic on 24 January 2008 and apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico, offices from which he resigned on 21 August 2013).
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.
These serious allegations will be scrutinized by the competent judicial body which will be assisted by both technical appraisals of the IT systems used by the defendant and, if necessary, international legal cooperation for the evaluation of testimonial evidence from the competent authorities in Santo Domingo. This will be a delicate and detailed procedure, requiring the most careful observations and insights from all parties involved in the trial.