December 3, 2021

Vatican refuses extradition of former Dominican Republic ambassador accused of abuse

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images-Caribbean-josef_wesolowski_199909008From Caribbean360

The Polish archbishop, who was recalled to Rome after allegedly sexually abusing teenage boys in the Dominican Republic, is said to be covered by diplomatic immunity.

VATICAN CITY, Italy, Friday January 17, 2014 – At a time when pressure is mounting on the Catholic church to stamp out abuse and punish the perpetrators, the Vatican is facing one of its most embarrassing episodes to date.

The Holy See has told Polish prosecutors that its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, is covered by diplomatic immunity and that the Vatican does not extradite its citizens.

Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be investigated for alleged sex abuse. His case has raised questions about whether the Vatican, in recalling him from Dominican jurisdiction, was shielding him and giving its own investigations priority over those of the Dominican Republic.

Wesolowski’s case is especially awkward for the Holy See given that he was a representative of the pope and was accused of serious crimes that the Vatican has previously attempted to distance itself from by blaming the global sex abuse scandal on aberrant priests and their bishops who failed to take action.

Adding to the church’s difficulties, Wesolowski was ordained a priest and bishop by his Polish countryman Pope John Paul II who is due to be made a saint in April.

The Wesolowski affair attracted widespread public attention last August when the Vatican removed him from his job after the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, told Pope Francis about rumours that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Dominican Republic. Dominican authorities subsequently opened an investigation.

Poland has also opened an investigation into the archbishop and a fellow Polish priest.

Meanwhile, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, has denied that Rome was protecting Wesolowski and said that the Vatican was cooperating with outside investigations while conducting its own.

According to an Associated Press report, the spokesman for Warsaw’s provincial prosecutor’s office, Przemyslaw Nowak, said that Polish prosecutors had asked the Vatican for information about Wesolowski’s legal status as part of its own investigation.

Nowak was quoted as saying that the Vatican had confirmed that Wesolowski is a citizen of the Vatican City state; that the Vatican doesn’t extradite its citizens, and that as a nuncio, or Holy See ambassador, Wesolowski enjoys full diplomatic immunity.

Nowak and Lombardi both stressed that the Poles were seeking information about Wesolowski’s legal status, not his extradition.

Lombardi also confirmed that Wesolowski was under investigation by two separate Vatican tribunals for alleged canonical crimes and violations of the Vatican City state’s criminal code.

Canon law convictions can result in being defrocked, while convictions in the Vatican’s civil tribunals can carry jail terms.

It is thought that Wesolowski has remained inside the Vatican in the months since his recall, but the Vatican has refused to say where he is, provide information about whether he has a lawyer, or how he has responded to the accusations.

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