Ex-Vatican envoy to Dominican Republic guilty of child sex abuse, tribunal finds

Jozef Wesolowski  is believed to be one of the highest-ranking Vatican officials to be dismissed from the clergy for sexual abuse.

Story highlights

  • A Vatican tribunal finds Jozef Wesolowski guilty of sexual abuse of minors
  • He was accused of abuse while serving as Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic
  • He has been dismissed from the clergy but can appeal the sentence

A former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been found guilty of sexual abuse of minors by a Vatican tribunal and defrocked, the Vatican said in a statement Friday.

Jozef Wesolowski was accused of sexual abuse of minors while serving in the Caribbean nation, the statement said.

The Polish archbishop is believed to be one of the highest-ranking Vatican officials to be dismissed from the clergy for sexual abuse.

Wesolowski has the right to appeal against the tribunal's finding and sentence within two months.

Once the canonical process has been concluded, he will then be tried by Vatican judicial authorities, according to the Vatican statement.

A report by the U.N. Committee Against Torture in May cited Wesolowski's case, noting that Poland had reportedly asked for the archbishop's extradition.

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It urged the Holy See to "proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation of Archbishop Wesolowski" and anyone else accused of violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

If necessary, the Holy See "should ensure such persons are criminally prosecuted or extradited for prosecution by the civil authorities" of another state, it said. The U.N. panel asked to be informed of the outcome of the investigation into Wesolowski.

In a statement issued following the report, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, urged Polish bishops and Catholics to contact Pope Francis and "insist that he send Wesolowski back to face secular justice in Poland."

Francis last month spoke out against sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and said he would meet with victims.

A priest who abuses a child betrays the body of the Lord, the Pope told reporters, as he called for zero tolerance.

"This is very serious," he said. "It is like, by way of comparison, holding a black Mass. You are supposed to lead them to sanctity and instead you lead them to a problem that will last their entire lives."

Read: Pope Francis to meet with sexual abuse victims

Read: Pope Francis asks forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children