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The Vatican has defrocked or laicized 66 year old Józef Wesolowski, an Archbishop from Poland who was appointed Papal Nuncio (Ambassador) to the Dominican republic.  This follows accusations by investigators in the Dominican Republic in 2013 that he had frequented an area in Santo Domingo known for child prostitution and that he paid teenage boys to masturbate.  But before he was arrested, he claimed diplomatic immunity and on August 21, 2013 he was recalled to Rome. At the time, a Vatican spokesperson denied that allegations of child abuse were the basis for the recall!  Wesolowski is reported to have been involved in five alleged "incidents" in the Dominican Republic, concerning not only minors but also Polish priests based on the Caribbean island.

Josef-Wesolowski450"He has been found guilty of being a pedophile," said Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy head of the Vatican press office. The verdict means he is no longer a bishop or even a priest but it appears he is still a Vatican citizen. 

Three jurisdictions want to prosecute him now that he is a civilian: The Dominican Republic, Poland and Vatican City.

As a papal diplomat and citizen of the Vatican City State, Wesolowski faces criminal charges by the tribunal of Vatican City, which recently updated its laws to specifically criminalize sex abuse of children. It is not clear, however, if the new law can be applied retroactively.

His case has been particularly delicate because Wesolowski was ordained as both a priest and a bishop by his Polish countryman and former pope, St. John Paul II.

Poland still wants to extradite him to face charges in Poland.  Polish prosecutor Katarzyna Calow-Jaszewska said the conviction "doesn't change the situation in our proceedings for the time being."

On Friday, the Dominican prosecutor general, Francisco Dominguez Brito, expressed satisfaction with the canonical verdict. "This decision paves the way for a penal sentence, which should condemn him," he said.

In a statement issued following the report, the US Based organization, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, urged Polish bishops and Catholics to contact Pope Francis and "insist that he send Wesolowski back to face secular justice in Poland."


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