VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis had ordered the arrest of a former Polish archbishop accused of child sex abuse in the Dominican Republic because the case was "so serious," the Vatican said Tuesday (Sept. 23).
Jozef Wesolowski, who was defrocked by a Vatican tribunal earlier this year, is under house arrest inside Vatican City due to the "express desire" of Pope Francis, the Vatican said in a statement.Over thirteen months ago, Wesolowski resigned as the papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic amidst charges that he had sexual abused children.
New York Times:
He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.He was then called back to Rome and a battle of extradition ensued: the Vatican stated that since he was a diplomat, he could not be extradited to the Dominican Republic and that he would be, instead, tried by the papal court. The Dominican Republic was not appeased:
"From the pure standpoint of justice, he should be tried in the country where the acts took place because the conditions for trying him will not be the same elsewhere," said Antonio Medina CalcaĆ±o, dean of the faculty of law and political science of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. "But all we can do is hope that the courts in the Vatican will treat this with the severity that it really deserves."Timing Is Everything?
"I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not."That was said in the wake of an historic meeting with victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Some didn't think the meeting was sincere enough:
"Over the past 2,000 years, two popes have met with about two dozen clergy sex abuse victims. Very little has changed," Mary Caplan, a leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said.Many also stated that the foot-dragging of the papal judicial system was discouraging, with one Dominican Republic bishop shocked to see Wesolowski walking freely around the streets of Rome.
But Francis has been working with a bureaucratic, antiquated system, a system of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (scion of the old Inquisition) headed at one time by Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict the XVII). It took a while before Wesolowski was laicized (defrocked), then he appealed the laicization, and a longer time ensued before any trial proceedings could begin (sound familiar?) Also: Wesolowski was the highest-ranking Catholic clergyman ever to be accused of child abuse.
Wesolowski may now be waiting several trials: in the Vatican, in the Dominican Republic and in his native Poland (he was ordained and made bishop by Pope John-Paul II). It is up to Francis, as head of the Vatican state, to determine if he can be extradited to the other countries.
America's Christian Right now has another reason to fear Francis: his simplicity and preference for the poor have caused shock waves throughout "prosperity gospel" and capitalist churches and now his determination in bringing errant clerics to justice is sending shivers up the spines of some youth pastors and their leading "bishops.*" They can poo-poo his economics as naive, but not his backbone in the face of corruption.
*Like Eddie Long.