The Vatican says it has put its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic under house arrest following allegations he sexually abused young boys in the Caribbean country.

Josef Wesolowski has already been defrocked after the Vatican's canon law court found him guilty in June and imposed its toughest penalty: laicization, or returning to life as a layman. On Tuesday, the Vatican's separate criminal court opened a preliminary hearing into his case and ordered him placed under house arrest.

A Vatican statement said Wesolwski presented medical documentation detailing health concerns that prevented a more restrictive type of detention. The Vatican has a few small detention rooms inside its police barracks.

Wesolowski could face jail time if found guilty.