Josef Wesolowski, the former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal in the country, will now be tried by Dominican courts after he lost his diplomatic immunity.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said late Monday that Wesolowski had ended all diplomatic activity for the Holy See and lost his related immunity and therefore "might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him."
The Vatican recalled Wesolowski last August after rumors emerged in the Dominican Republic that he had sexually molested young boys. Earlier this summer, a Vatican tribunal found him guilty under canon law and ordered him to return to the lay state. A Vatican criminal trial is pending, but Monday’s ruling means he can now be tried in the Dominican courts.
According to The New York Times, Wesolowski offered young boys money to perform sexual acts – and was known by many in the country as “the Italian.”
“He definitely seduced me with money,” one of the alleged victims, Francis Aquino Aneury, told the Times. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.”
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The Vatican came under fire when it recalled Wesolowski and relieved him of his duties after the allegations first emerged. Those actions raised questions about whether the Vatican, by removing him from Dominican jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations ahead of that of authorities in the Caribbean nation.
Wesolowski was recalled on Aug. 21 after the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, told Pope Francis in July about rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys.
Lombardi has denied Rome was shielding Wesolowski and said that the Vatican was cooperating with the investigations while conducting its own probes.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.