VATICAN CITY – The Vatican said Monday that its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, accused of sexually abusing young boys in the Caribbean country, had lost his diplomatic immunity and could be tried by Dominican or other courts.
The Vatican has previously insisted in its handling of the delicate case of Josef Wesolowski that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity and that the Holy See doesn’t extradite its own citizens.
But in a statement Monday, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wesolowski had ceased all diplomatic activity for the Holy See, lost his related immunity and therefore “might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.”
The Vatican recalled Wesolowski a year ago after allegations emerged in the Dominican Republic that he had sexually molested young boys there.
Dominican authorities have said their country’s investigation uncovered allegations that Wesolowski had paid at least six minors to watch them masturbate and had recorded it with his mobile phone, but prosecutors did not file charges because the nuncio had diplomatic immunity.
The case was highly sensitive, given that the Polish-born Wesolowski was an ambassador of the Holy See – not just one of the world’s 440,000 priests.
This summer, a Vatican tribunal found him guilty under canon law of abusing young boys and defrocked him, the harshest sentence under church law and the first time such a high-ranking Vatican official had been sanctioned for sexual abuse. Wesolwski recently appealed that sentence and a final decision is expected in October, Lombardi said.
After that appeal is heard, the Vatican’s criminal courts will take up the case and jail time is possible if he is found guilty.
As a papal diplomat and citizen of the Vatican City State, Wesolowski faces criminal charges by the tribunal of the Vatican City, which last year updated its laws to specifically criminalize sexual abuse of children. It is not clear, however, if the new law can be applied retroactively.