Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Former Archbishop and Vatican Ambassador to Dominican Republic Józef Wesołowski Under "House Arrest" in Vatican

In the miscellany of news links I just posted, I did also intend to mention the story of the Vatican's "house arrest" of former archbishop and Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic Józef Wesołowski, about whom I wrote back in August. As I noted then, the blockbuster report about this story that Laurie Goodstein published in the New York Times appeared to spur the Vatican to some action: it appeared to lead to a Vatican statement that Wesołowski, whom the Vatican had whisked away to Rome when his crimes against children first became known, was willing to extradite him to either the Dominican Republic or to Poland to face charges in either country. I cited theologian Mary Hunt, who thought that the Vatican's quick statement about extradition following Goodstein's article indicated that the article had some positive effect, though Hunt seriously doubted that the Vatican would permit Wesołowski to be extradited.

Now this morning, it's being reported (e.g., by Josephine McKenna for Religion News Service) that Wesołowski has been placed under "house arrest" in the Vatican at the express direction of Pope Francis. McKenna notes that Wesołowski continues to face charges in both the Dominican Republic and Poland, and may eventually be extradited to face those charges. She also notes that a bishop from the Dominican Republic recently expressed his shock at seeing Wesołowski walking freely in the streets of Rome when the bishop made a visit to that city not long ago.

McKenna cites a statement of David Clohessy of SNAP yesterday, reacting to the news of Wesołowski's "house arrest":

We are grateful that this action has finally been taken, feel it should have happened months ago, and believe it's better if secular authorities are able to jail and prosecute Wesolowski.

David also says,

Pope Francis claims "There are no privileges. . .for priests and bishops who have violated children." While we are glad Wesolowski has allegedly been restricted, we are concerned it took so long for this to happen and doubt strongly that Catholic officials will enforce this move.

As Chris Johnston notes for The Guardian

The case has also been a test of whether Francis is willing to prosecute a crime that the Vatican has long sought to blame on priests, rather than direct representatives of the pope himself.

For that reason, it seems to me, what happens next in this story will be very important to watch.

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