Sex Abuse Trial of Ex-Vatican Envoy Is Delayed

By Gaia Pianigiani
New York Times
July 11, 2015

Jozef Wesolowski is accused of sexual abuse and owning child pornography.

VATICAN CITY — The trial of a former Vatican ambassador accused of sexually abusing boys while stationed in the Dominican Republic and of possessing child pornography was adjourned indefinitely on Saturday after he fell ill and was hospitalized.

The defendant, Jozef Wesolowski, 66, was taken to an Italian hospital for an “unexpected illness” on Friday, the Vatican said in a statement. The trial will resume when Mr. Wesolowski recovers, it said.

Before the adjournment, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, accused Mr. Wesolowski of purchasing and retaining on his two computers an “enormous quantity” of child pornography and of sexually abusing a number of boys in the Dominican Republic presumed to have been 13 to 16 years old.

Mr. Wesolowski, a former archbishop, is also accused of causing serious harm to the boys he is accused of abusing and of offending “Christian morality,” Mr. Milano said in a statement released Saturday.

If found guilty, Mr. Wesolowski could face up to eight years in prison, though the sentence could be lengthened if the Vatican court decides that there are aggravating circumstances.

Mr. Wesolowski’s lawyer has promised to fight the accusations, a Vatican spokesman said. On Saturday, he said his client had been willing to attend the trial before he fell sick.

Mr. Wesolowski is the first top Vatican official to stand trial on sexual abuse charges in the Vatican since Pope Francis issued new rules that allowed prosecutors more leeway in such cases. Abuse victims have lamented that for decades, the Catholic Church has covered up cases of abuse or has not properly punished the perpetrators or their supervisors.

Mr. Wesolowski was secretly recalled from the Dominican Republic in 2013 before local authorities there could investigate the accusations against him. He remained free inside Vatican City until September 2014, when he was placed under house arrest. He was defrocked by a Vatican court in June 2014.

Francis is not the first pontiff to publicly confront the issue of abusive clergy or to revise Vatican rules to discipline priests who engaged in sexual abuse, but he is the first to take action against their superiors. Last month, Francis approved the creation of a Vatican tribunal to try bishops accused of covering up for priests or failing to take action. He has also created a papal commission on abuse that includes two abuse survivors and lay people under the guidance of the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.


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