VATICAN CITY — The Vatican countered media reports that it protected a former nuncio who faces sex-abuse charges through diplomatic immunity, saying instead that the Holy See acted justly and swiftly in the case.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, stated that former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic Josef Wesolowski — following charges and a guilty verdict of sexual misconduct — has been removed from his post as nuncio, and thus, he no longer has diplomatic immunity.
The former nuncio may “be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him” in the Dominican Republic, Father Lombardi said in an Aug. 25 statement.
Though there is no extradition treaty between the Vatican and the Dominican Republic, Vatican officials in September expressed their willingness to hand over Wesolowski to civil authorities in the Dominican Republic.
Father Lombardi added that the case is one that Pope Francis “wishes to address justly and rigorously.”
In June 2014, Vatican officials ruled that Wesolowski was guilty of accusations that arose in late 2013: that the former nuncio had engaged in sexual misconduct, which had previously led him to resign from the position of nuncio to the Dominican Republic on Aug. 21, 2013. After the printing of the original accusations, a 13-year-old boy came forward with further allegations that Wesolowski had solicited him for sexual favors in exchange for money.
The nuncio was then taken into protective custody by Dominican Republic officials.
After the guilty verdict, Wesolowski was laicized, “the most serious canonical sentence of a return to the lay state,” Father Lombardi said. He is no longer able to celebrate the sacraments. Wesolowski has appealed the decision.
“The appeal will be judged without delay over the course of the coming weeks, most likely in October 2014,” Father Lombardi added.
Wesolowski’s penal trial before Vatican authorities will begin after the appeal is considered and the canonical sentence is definite. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also needs to complete the verification of the charges levied against him.
The Vatican, Father Lombardi said, has “from the very first moments that this case was made known to them, moved without delay and correctly in light of the fact that former nuncio Wesolowski held the position of a diplomatic representative of the Holy See,” particularly in recalling the former nuncio to Rome for canonical trial.
Father Lombardi said the recall of Wesolowski to the Vatican for trial and the consideration “demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case.”