Vatican's ex-ambassador to Dominican Republic defrocked
Józef Wesołowski, who was recalled to Rome by Pope Francis amid allegations that he paid for sex with minors, found guilty in canonical trial
Józef Wesołowski was the Vatican's ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He was recalled to Rome after the archbishop of Santo Domingo told the Argentinian pontiff about local reports that Wesołowski had been paying for sex with teenage boys.
The Vatican has said it will restrict the movements of its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic after the senior papal representative, who was accused of sex abuse, was found guilty by a church court and defrocked.
In a statement on Friday the Vatican said Józef Wesołowski, who was recalled to Rome by Pope Francis last August amid allegations that he had paid for sex with minors, had in recent days been given a first-grade conviction in a canonical trial and sentenced to laicisation – a very rare step for such a senior official.
The Polish ex-nuncio, or ambassador, now has two months to appeal against the verdict of the Congregation of the Faith, said the statement. Criminal proceedings by judicial authorities in the Vatican City state would go ahead after the conviction was made definitive, it added.
While until now Wesołowski had "benefited from a relative freedom of movement", said the Vatican on Friday, "all measures appropriate for the gravity of the case will be taken" in light of the verdict.
It did not give further details on what those measures might entail, but Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi was quoted in Italian media as saying steps would be taken to ensure the career church diplomat was "resident in a precise, limited place without freedom of movement, seeing as he is a person who has been found guilty of a serious crime and is awaiting further judicial proceedings".
In its brief statement, the Vatican did not specify the crime of which Wesołowski had been found guilty. He was relieved of his duties as nuncio after the archbishop of Santo Domingo told the Argentinian pontiff about local reports that Wesołowski had been paying for sex with teenage boys.
A month after his return, the Vatican said it would cooperate with Dominican authorities, and denied accusations that it was trying to shield him from investigations in the Caribbean , saying it was "in no way an attempt to help him avoid responsibility for whatever is eventually ascertained". Pope Francis has personally come under fire during his papacy by sex abuse victims and their advocates, who say he has not shown a real desire to act decisively on the issue of punishing predatory priests and those who involved in their cover-ups. However, in April he spoke strongly of the need for the Catholic church to "not take one step backwards" in the fight against clerical sex abuse, adding: "We have to be even stronger."
Last month, while being questioned before the United Nations committee against torture, archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's ambassador to the UN, revealed that the Vatican had defrocked 848 priests and given another 2,572 lesser sanctions over the past decade.