Published: Sat, September 16, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Vatican diplomat in United States recalled due to child-porn investigation

Vatican diplomat in United States recalled due to child-porn investigation

An investigation into child pornography prompted the Vatican to recall one of its diplomatic personnel from Washington DC last month. "Pope Francis is both spiritual leader and head of state". The Holy See announced the move today, and report that officials have begun an investigation into the priest's activities.

Vatican prosecutors said on Friday they opened an investigation into the case and the priest in question had returned to Rome, according to a statement.

After being notified of the probe by the State Department, the Vatican told the U.S. that the matter had been referred to the "promoter of justice at the Vatican tribunal", which is the office overseeing prosecutions within the city-state.

"[Pope Francis] must bring the diplomat back to the United States in order to adhere to his promises of complying with investigations by civil authorities in cases of child sexual abuse", SNAP managing director Barbara Dorris said. Assuming a successful prosecution by the "promoter of justice", the net sentence could still be roughly similar.

A USA official familiar with the case told the Associated Press that the priest in question was a senior member of the Vatican embassy staff. The Holy See said officials are working on collaborating with foreign investigators to gather evidence in the case.

Dominican prosecutors balked at the recall, and never filed charges because Wesolowski had diplomatic immunity as a staff member fro the Vatican. The Vatican yearbook lists three counsellors who work under the nuncio, or ambassador.

The Vatican press service said "efforts had been made through worldwide collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case", suggesting that Rome is seeking evidence from USA officials.

Two years ago the Vatican put the former papal ambassador to the Dominican Republic on trial for child sex offences, a case that was seen as showing the pope's determination to clean up the Church. The Vatican removed Wesolowski from Dominican jurisdiction by first submitting him to a canonical court proceeding at the Vatican.

When Wesolowski was defrocked, he lost his diplomatic immunity, enabling him to be tried by other courts.

The Vatican does not have extradition treaties. However, it refused to provide Dominican authorities with information about his whereabouts or how he had pleaded to the charges.

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

He faced up to seven years in jail if convicted.

"This is a serious issue", said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a release.

Francis has a spotty record on handling sex abuse cases.

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