published Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Dominican court opens case on ex-Vatican official over sexual abuse allegations


Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, greets people after a Mass in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in this 2013 photo.
Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, greets people after a Mass in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in this 2013 photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A court in the Dominican Republic has taken the first steps toward possible sexual abuse charges against a former Vatican ambassador to the Caribbean country.

An investigative magistrate is examining allegations against Josef Wesolowski to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges, the Santo Dominican prosecutor's office announced late Tuesday.

The announcement came a day after the Vatican said its former ambassador had lost his diplomatic immunity.

The Vatican recalled Wesolowski in August 2013 after allegations emerged he had sexually molested boys there.

Dominican officials say his presence is not required in the country for authorities to review an investigation of the allegations and decide whether formal charges are warranted.

The court says it will begin interviewing alleged victims on Sept. 2.

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 — and had been ordained both a priest and a bishop by St. John Paul II.

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 sex abuse. Wesolowski recently appealed that sentence and a final decision is expected in October. After that appeal is heard, the Vatican's criminal courts were expected take up the case.

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