A Vatican investigation has led to the expulsion of a former Vatican ambassador from the priesthood in response to allegations of sexually abusing minors.
Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, was sentenced with laicization after a canonical process conducted by the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, the Vatican declared in a written statement June 27.
The 65-year-old archbishop has two months to appeal the decision.
The Vatican City criminal court’s own trial of the archbishop will begin once the canonical process concludes, the statement said.
Given the fact that the archbishop has been “dismissed from the clerical state,” the Vatican said, “all measures appropriate to the gravity of the case” would be taken while he is awaiting criminal trial.
The specifics of those measures were to be decided by the former nuncio’s superiors within the Vatican Secretariat of State, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
The archbishop had “enjoyed relative freedom of movement” while the canonical process was under way, the Vatican statement said. However, given the imposed censure, it was expected the archbishop’s movements would be limited, Father Lombardi said.
The Vatican statement said the first round of the canonical process against the former nuncio ended in a “conviction of dismissal from the clerical state.” As such, Archbishop Wesolowski loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, except the obligation of celibacy. The statement did not specify if there were any other sanctions or requirements in connection with his sentencing.
Once the canonical case is closed definitively — in two months if there is no appeal — the “criminal proceedings” of Vatican City State’s own judicial system would begin, the statement said, since the archbishop was a Vatican citizen when he reportedly abused under-aged boys while serving as nuncio in the Dominican Republic.
Father Lombardi said it was not clear whether the archbishop would or could be tried under the new criminal codes Pope Francis approved in 2013. The new laws more clearly define and establish penalties for specific crimes against minors, including sexual violence against children.
The Vatican removed the archbishop from his position as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic in August 2013 after he was accused of paying for sex with boys in the Caribbean country.
Archbishop Wesolowski arrived in the Dominican Republic in January 2008 after serving first as a priest in Krakow from 1972 to 1999, then as Vatican ambassador to Bolivia from 1999 to 2002 and ambassador to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan from 2002 to 2008.
Only a few bishops have been laicized in connection with allegations of abusing minors.
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