Vatican recalls priest from United States as child porn investigation opens

16 September, 2017, 01:28 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City

USA officials found evidence implicating a Vatican diplomat in a child-pornography case, leading the Vatican to recall the official to the Holy See.

Pope Francis has declared zero tolerance over abuse scandals that have beset the church for decades, but has appeared to struggle to overcome resistance within the Vatican hierarchy.

The Vatican has recalled a priest serving as an envoy in Washington and opened a child pornography investigation after USA officials asked the church to lift his diplomatic immunity.

Vatican diplomats in the United States have diplomatic immunity from prosecution for most crimes in the United States, like diplomats of all foreign nations. The Justice Department, which would have brought any charges, didn't immediately comment, and the Vatican gave no details about what, if any, evidence had been provided to persuade it to recall the priest.

The priest, who was not named, has returned to Vatican City and is awaiting the outcome of the Holy See investigation, which could lead to a trial in the tiny city state. A Vatican statement says it was notified of the US investigation on August 21.

The news service adds: "The Vatican yearbook lists the nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, and three priests - an Indian and two Italians - as making up the diplomatic staff at the Washington nunciature", another term for the Vatican's diplomatic mission. In 2013 it recalled the Vatican's then ambassador to the Dominican Republic following allegations that he sexually abused minors.

The priest will likely face a canonical proceeding, overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and a criminal trial overseen by the courts of the Vatican City State.

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The Vatican doesn't have extradition treaties.

After he was defrocked, Wesolowski lost his diplomatic immunity and the Vatican said he could be tried by other courts.

He was the first high-ranking Catholic official to stand trial in the Vatican on such sex charges and the case was closely watched by victims of priestly abuse, who have accused the Vatican of repeatedly hushing up previous scandals.

The Vatican in 2013 specifically criminalized child porn possession, distribution and production in its criminal code.

"We hope the Holy See will be forthcoming with more details", said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president.

DiNardo said that while the bishops don't have all the facts, "we reaffirm that when such allegations occur, an immediate, thorough, and transparent investigation should begin in cooperation with law enforcement and immediate steps be taken to protect children".

He faced up to seven years in jail if convicted.

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