Wesołowski free to move around Vatican City, reports BBC - BishopAccountability.org Responds
Statement by Anne Barrett Doyle, BishopAccountability.org (781-439-5208 cell), August 24, 2015
Pope Francis vowed last year that bishops who harm children will receive “no special treatment," but accused child molester Józef Wesołowski appears to be enjoying just that. While waiting for his trial to resume, the ex-archbishop is free to walk around Vatican City, according to a recent report by the BBC.
"Monsignor Wesołowski is not confined to his room. He can walk around the Vatican, around its 40 hectares [~100 acres],” said Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Holy See press office, to the BBC. (This quote was translated by BishopAccountability.org. The article appears to have been published only in Spanish.)
If the BBC report is accurate, this loosening of restrictions raises urgent child safety concerns. The evidence that the former papal nuncio is guilty of serious child sex crimes is so strong that another Vatican tribunal took the extraordinary step of laicizing him. Unless he is heavily guarded at all times, unaccompanied minors in Vatican City could be at risk. (Vatican City’s ‘40 hectares’ include St. Peter’s Square, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every day.)
Last September, Wesołowski had been placed under house arrest. Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi said the “restrictive measure” was imposed because of “the seriousness of the allegations” and was at the “express desire” of Pope Francis.
The Pope and Vatican officials clearly felt then that Wesołowski was too dangerous to be unconfined. Have they changed their minds? If so, on what basis? What measures are they taking to guarantee he has no access to minors in St. Peter’s Square and elsewhere?
Much is at stake here, from the safety of children to the credibility of Pope Francis’s celebrated pledge that no bishops will be treated as ‘daddy’s boys’ on his watch.
Already, the ex-archbishop’s detention in the VCS criminal system has been far more relaxed than that of Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s former butler, the only other person tried criminally in the tiny governate. Gabriele was arrested in May 2012 for stealing and leaking papal documents. Although his crime was non-violent and harmed no children – indeed, some regard him as a whistleblower – Gabriele was treated harshly before his trial. Unlike Wesołowski, who was given house confinement for the first 60 days after his arrest and was freed thereafter to move around Vatican City, Gabriele was locked in a Vatican jail for the first two months after his arrest, and endured inhumane conditions during the first few weeks of that period, according to his testimony at trial. His cell was so narrow he could not stretch out his arms, and it was lit brightly around the clock for 15-20 days in a row. He said he was sleep-deprived and depressed and that his vision was affected.
Given the high probability that Wesołowski is a dangerous man, Vatican officials should jail him or return him to strict house arrest.
If he is free but being monitored, officials should explain the details of the monitoring system, recognizing that the record of the abuse crisis includes many tragic failures of monitoring arrangements that seemed fail-proof on paper.
They should also inform the public of the date that the trial will resume, and explain why it did not resume third week of July. That's when the defendant’s hospital stay ended, according to the BBC report.
Pope Francis and the Holy See have been intent on controlling this case from the moment they spirited Wesołowski out of the Dominican Republic without reporting him to local law enforcement. At the very least, they now must prove to a skeptical international community that a former high-ranking church official can be prosecuted impartially by the tiny theocracy's untried criminal justice system. Confining the accused child molester to jail or strict house arrest would be a modest sign that they are capable of the “just and necessary rigor” that Pope Francis promised last year.
Founded in 2003 and based near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, BishopAccountability.org is a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. An independent non-profit, it is not a victims' advocacy group and is not affiliated with any church, reform, or victims' organization. In 2014, its website hosted 1.5 million unique visitors.
Contact for BishopAccountability.org
Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-439-5208 cell
Terence McKiernan, President and Co-Director, email@example.com, 508-479-9304