Now laicized, Jozef Wesolowski undergoing criminal proceedings for the abuse of minors
It is Pope Francis’ express will that grave cases regarding the abuse of minors by clergy be dealt with rigorously and without delay.
This is according to a statement released by Holy See Press Office Director Father Federico Lombardi, announcing the news that a former nuncio undergoing criminal proceedings for the abuse of minors, has been placed under house arrest.
In the statement released Tuesday evening, Father Lombardi said the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice of the Court of First Instance issued the restrictive measure against former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski in light of the “grave facts of abuse against minors that took place in the Dominican Republic,” where he had served as Nuncio.
Father Lombardi stated that the “seriousness of the allegation” prompted the investigator’s office to issue the order. However, due to the former archbishop’s documented medical condition, he has been placed under house arrest at a facility within Vatican City State limits.
Wesolowski was reduced to the lay state following a canonical trial in June conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which he was found guilty of the crime of child abuse.
The Holy See recalled the Polish-born Wesolowski in August, 2013 after the archbishop of Santo Domingo told Pope Francis about rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Caribbean country. Dominican authorities opened an investigation, but declined initially to press charges since the Vatican had said Wesolowski enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Polish prosecutors as well opened an investigation.
A Santo Domingo court, though, took the first steps toward possibly charging him last month after the Vatican said he had lost his immunity when he was defrocked and could be prosecuted elsewhere.
Wesolowski could face jail time if found guilty by the Vatican criminal court, which has jurisdiction over crimes committed within the tiny Vatican City State or by any of the Holy See’s diplomatic personnel.
It is unclear where he would serve any possible term: inside the Vatican or in an Italian prison.
The case against Wesolowski has been closely watched, given the grave nature of the charges and the fact that the Vatican had faced criticism that it had shielded Wesolowski from Dominican jurisdiction by recalling him last year. It is the first time a high-ranking Vatican official has ever faced criminal charges for sexually abusing youngsters. Francis has said no prelate, whether a priest or a cardinal, has any privileges when it comes to sex abuse.
Father Lombardi stated that the initiative taken by Vatican City State’s judicial organs is in accordance with the Pope’s express will that such a grave and delicate case be addressed without delay, with the just and necessary rigor and with "the full assumption of responsibility by the institutions of the Holy See.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.