Posted August 25, 2014 by Religion News Service in Commentary and News

Vatican: Former Diplomat Who Abused Children Could Face Extradition

By David Gibson

(RNS) As Pope Francis tries to reshape the Catholic Church’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis, the case of Jozef Wesolowski , the former nuncio — or Vatican ambassador — to the Dominican Republic has drawn close scrutiny, most recently in a Sunday New York Times articlethat detailed the former archbishop’s predations.

The story also recounted how Wesolowski was brought back to the Vatican to face charges there rather than in the Dominican Republic because he had diplomatic immunity — an argument that sounded legalistic to many, and could undermine the pontiff’s “get tough” stance.

Vatican: Former diplomat who abused children could face extradition

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized.

Late Monday, the Vatican responded with a statement explaining that since Wesolowski was defrocked in June, he is no longer an archbishop nor is he a Vatican diplomat and when his appeals are exhausted he “might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him. ”

What that could mean for Wesolowski is unclear. It’s not known whether the Vatican has an extradition agreement with the Dominican Republic (or Wesolowski’s native Poland), or whether Italy could try or extradite him. The former archbishop has been spotted by fellow Dominican prelates strolling around Rome’s historic district.

Here is the full text of the statement from the Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office:

Former nuncio Jozef Wesolowski has recently appealed, within the prescribed limit of two months, the most serious canonical sentence of a return to the lay state that has been imposed upon him. The appeal will be judged without delay over the course of the coming weeks, most likely in October 2014.

It is important to note that former nuncio Wesolowski has ceased functioning as a diplomat of the Holy See and has therefore lost his related diplomatic immunity, and has been previously stated, the punitive procedure of the Vatican’s civil judiciary departments will continue as soon as the canonical sentence becomes definitive.

Regarding stories that have appeared over the past few days in various media, it is important to note that the Authorities of the Holy See, 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. This action relates to his recall to Rome and in the treatment of the case in relation to Authorities of the Dominican Republic.

Far from any intention of a cover-up, this action demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case, about which Pope Francis is duly and carefully informed and one which the Pope wishes to address justly and rigorously.

We must finally state that since former nuncio Wesolowski has ended all diplomatic activity and its related immunity, he might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.