Ethics Institutions

Vatican diplomat Jozef Wesolowski convicted of sexual abuse, defrocked from the priest …

Jozef Wesolowski is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo when he was still an archbishop and was serving as nuncio to the Dominican Republic. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, has been defrocked and is likely to face criminal prosecution at the Vatican after a church inquiry convicted him of child sexual abuse.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized.

RNS photo by Orlando Barria/CNS

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized.

Wesolowski, who is originally from Poland, was removed from his post in the Dominican Republic and recalled to the Vatican in August amid claims that he had abused boys in Santo Domingo.

The 65-year-old envoy is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for sex abuse. He was found guilty after an inquiry conducted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over all sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.

In a brief statement released Friday (June 27), the Vatican said the verdict was issued “in the past few days” and the former diplomat was facing arrest due to the “gravity of the case.”

“Measures will be taken so he is in a precise restricted location, without any freedom of movement, since he has been found guilty of a serious crime and is awaiting further legal action,” said the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

A bishop from the Dominican Republic was recently reported to say that he was shocked to see Wesolowski walking freely on the streets of central Rome. Prosecutors in the Caribbean nation have said they have convincing evidence that the prelate molested young men.

He has also been accused of abuse in his native Poland. The Vatican rejected an extradition request from the Warsaw prosecutor’s office on the grounds he was “a citizen of the Vatican” and holds diplomatic immunity.

SNAP, the Chicago-based support group for victims of clerical sexual abuse, said the former nuncio’s sentence did not go far enough and he should be handed over to secular authorities.

“Wesolowski should face a criminal trial, not a church proceeding,” said SNAP’s national director, David Clohessy. “And he should be in a secular jail. And he might have been in one for months, had Vatican officials cooperated with law enforcement.”

Wesolowski was ordained as a priest and bishop by St. John Paul II. He served as an envoy to the Dominican Republic for five years until he was recalled last year.

The archbishop now has two months to appeal his sentence before facing criminal proceedings at the Vatican. His case appears to be the most tangible demonstration of what Pope Francis called his “zero tolerance” for child sex abuse as he returned from the Middle East at the end of May.

At the time, the pope said three bishops were under investigation. While he did not name names, he was likely referring to Wesolowski; Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned in 2013 amid allegations of improper conduct; and Chilean Bishop Cristian Contreras, who has been accused of abuse by other priests in his diocese.

In September, the Peruvian Bishops Conference defrocked Bishop Gabino Miranda on orders from the Vatican after he was accused of abusing children.


About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • So now Bishop Jozef Wesolowski has been defrocked– his title removed. Yes it is a punishment of sorts, but we just don’t know how this process is going to protect kids.
    –Will he be jailed for his crimes against kids?
    –Where is he living now?
    –Why has Wesolowski not been extradited back to Poland or Dominican Republic where he can be charged with child sex crimes like any other person?

    This child predator needs to be kept behind bars and away from innocent children.
    Sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day.
    Silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others
    Judy Jones, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

  • These sick, cloaked, hysterical creeps need to hang or be sent to jail in orange jailbird fatigues.

    Priest = Disgraced, Inhuman Monster

  • It’s late, and it’s too slow, and it still smells of cover-up since Benedict’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is still handling clerical sex abuse cases that he took over when he was prefect at CDF under John Paul II who did next to nothing in the Vatican or internationally about the continuing, outrageous pedophilia scandal.

    It is a contradiction to a sinful extend and dangerous in psychological terms to demand celibacy of those who wish to serve in any ministry. There have always been other ways to protect church property which is claimed to have been the 11th century purpose for demanding clerical celibacy. Celibacy and the refusal to ordain women cause a terrible loss to the church of good clergy.

    Respect for marriage and for women demand a correction of these prohibitions because it is right, not just because there is a scarcity of clergy.

    One wonders if the church does not act against these wrongs because it is realized by top church managers that so few already ordained would choose to marry and thus expose the priesthood as a haven for those of disordered sexuality–and that does not mean homosexuality.

    Fr. Donald Cozzens, former rector of St. Mary Seminary of Cleveland, OH, expressed concern that many candidates for the priesthood wrongly think that because they have no interest in heterosexual marriage, God must have ordered their sexuality as a way of directing them toward the priesthood. Once advanced in training or after ordination, they are confronted with the natural difficulty of ignoring their sexuality.

  • “[T]he Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…as jurisdiction over all sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.”

    Really? The Vatican has jurisdiction over these cases, rather than the governments of the nations in which the alleged crimes occurred? Says who? Admittedly I am not a lawyer, but this strikes me as fishy. I will buy that this may hold true for diplomats, but RNS is saying it applies for all RCC personnel?

  • This is a typical exaggeration. It sounds more like the way Hitler would have reacted to Jews and homosexuals whom he sickly perceived as his enemies. An extreme of negligence, not even purposeful obstruction of justice, can never be corrected by extremes in opposite directions. Mental illness can never be appropriately attended with other mentally ill behavior. Pedophilia is not homosexuality. It is mental illness.

  • And let society return to the evil conditions of dark ages. There are healthy and genuinely just ways to attend these matter. It is up to the church to begin using them instead of the awful obstruction of justice we have witnessed thus far.

    It must be recognized and admitted that the justice systems of the United States are also guilty. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO, is the only bishop of all those who have been active in obstructing justice in these pedophilia matters in this country who has been prosecuted. When found guilty, he received only a slap-on-the-wrist, misdemeanor judgement and is still bishop of Kansas City.

    There are many other bishops who did worse. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now of New York and red-hatted by Benedict, brazenly transferred diocesan funds to cemetery endowments when he was archbishop of Milwaukee to make it impossible to pay court-ordered judgements to pedophile victims without placing the archdiocese on the brink of bankruptcy.

    Now, Dolan boldly talks with TV media about people having access to contraceptives at 7/11s as brazenly as Dick Cheney defends his lies that embroiled us in the Iraq war and urges a repetition of his and Bush’s killing entrance into those ancient religious entanglements.

  • Cardinal Wesolowski was a diplomat. The Vatican and the Dominican Republic have state diplomatic recognition with each other. There are many who disagree with state recognition of the Vatican, but it is a city-state under the 1929 Lateran Treaty with Italy, and it is up to any two “states” to determine recognition of each other.

    The United States also has full state recognition with the Vatican. That was done under President Reagan. Before that, starting with President Franklin Roosevelt, U.S. presidents only maintained “personal representatives” with the Vatican.

  • Again, this article claims that the Vatican has jurisdiction over ALL sex abuse cases involving RCC clergy, not just cases involving diplomats.

  • Is he going to be turned over to the courts for trial, conviction and imprisonment? No? Then what’s the point, where’s the “punishment”?

    The message from the vatican is clear: “If you rape children or help cover it up, we’ll protect you.”

  • Gotta love the Vatican. Sure, they’re happy to “defrock” the guy. But … will they have the mettle to actually lock him up somewhere and throw away the key? (For that matter, does the Vatican even have a prison? Why do I doubt it?)

    In the meantime he can go wherever he wants. Even defrocked, the Church is still taking care of him and paying all his bills. Someone please explain to me exactly where the “punishment” is in all this?

    Once again the Vatican shows itself to have all the morals of the Mafia.

  • @Gilhcan,

    I think you are mistaken.
    Being a priest, like being a terrorist sympathizer, is optional.
    Nobody should harm a priest (or terrorist sympathizers) – but they should be encouraged legally, with words and letters to abandon such uncivilized organizations and allow people to exist without these primitive destructive philosophies – especially on children.

    Why Priests (and all other clergy) are inhuman monsters:

    1. They preach Hell to children.
    2. Many preach Creationism.
    3. Many preach against science.
    4. They all endorse faith – the same disgusting method of confirmation employed by Islamic and other religious terrorists.
    5. They endorse the unsupportable idea that one’s thoughts are being monitored by a punishing, invisible authority.
    6. They all endorse hatred on religious grounds of the members of the out-groups: other religions, other tribes and others who are tainted with ‘sin’ of some kind. So Jews are ‘christ-killers’ and Christians are ‘infidels’ and Muslims are ‘of the devil’.
    7. They all preach that members of other religions will go to hell – though there is no evidence to support any of these claims.

    Religion is not benign. Just as the GOP shrugs its shoulders and denies Climate Change is manmade – the Clergy shrugs its shoulders and claims those of other faiths are doomed.

    The perpetrators are this are clergy and it is time to say so.

  • Humanity deserves whatever evil it gets.
    On one hand, you have a heretic Pope, posturing as a light unto the world. On another, you have the scimitars of Islam.

    We might as well let the world burn. Lord knows we’ve earned it.

  • I find something extremely sad that great dignity of the Catholic Church continues to be diminished by such clergymen. I certainly agree that they should be punished. I just wish there was a simple way that freed both then and us from this tragedy.

  • “…great dignity of the Catholic Church continues to be diminished”

    What dignity? It never had any.

  • Exactly. Priests either

    – raped children
    – hid pedo-pals who confessed that they raped children
    – sat back like cowards knowing priests were raping children

    They are the gutless gangsters of the satan’s pedophile mafia, which thrives in the Catholic church.

  • The Survivors have a right to full justice under the law. Once defrocked, the person should be returned to his home country for trial. But once again, the Roman Catholic church will protect its own. No one is born in the Vatican – return the person to the country of birth, not to the state where for hundreds of years, protection has been offered to the perpetrator and not to the victim.

  • This is from the American Psychiatric Association who characterize pedophila as a psychiatric disorder not an illness. There is no treatment. It is also a criminal act and should be treated as such in my opinion wherever possible.”
    The APA said that the discussion about diagnostic criterion for pedophilic disorder contained an error; it should have read, “sexual interest,” instead of “sexual orientation.”

    In the news release, the APA affirmed that they strongly support effort to criminally prosecute those who sexually abuse and exploit children and adolescents. They also support ongoing efforts to develop treatment for individuals who have been diagnosed with pedophilic disorder, with the goal of preventing future abusive acts.”

  • the key word is diplomat – and I have to presume he was granted Vatican citizenship. But in this case, he should be returned to his country of birth since he has been stripped of his priest status – and with that should go his citizenship of the Vatican since it was a citizenship of convenience. That is, unless the pope actually wants to go on protecting the abusive and criminal priests instead of punishing their criminal behaviour. I smell hypocrisy here – but then it is a hunch of mine that the Roman Catholic church is in the death throes now – which is a good thing. It has proved itself for centuries to be nothing more than a corrupt business and goes on proving that over and over.

  • My, my, who hates who, Atheist Max? The church is not free of corruption.
    I know of no church that “harps” on a concept of Hell or “Creationism.”
    Churches have members who are scientist. At the Vatican there resides one of the best observatories in the world. Wake up and realize that there
    is a new church and it has no intention a “shooting itself in the foot.”

  • As to those to prey on children, yes all churches are guilty of “protecting”
    them. The fault lies in the fact that too much authority is given to people,
    men and women who are not suited for their callings. The Episcopalian
    church had a drunken female bishop to killed a man on his bike. Everyone
    knew of her history and her fathers how was also a drunk and little, if any
    thing was done and now a wife is without a husband and the children will
    now grow up knowing that a bishop who was drunk killed their father. In
    the case of the Episcopalians, yes i am one, the issues needed to be acknowledged and the offending parties removed from office.