Vatican diplo­mat re­called amid child porn in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Waterloo Region Record - - WORLD - Ni­cole Win­field and Matthew Lee

VATICAN CITY — A high-rank­ing priest work­ing in the Vatican’s em­bassy in Washington has been re­called af­ter U.S. pros­e­cu­tors asked for him to be charged there and face trial in a child pornog­ra­phy in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Vatican and U.S. of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

The diplo­mat was sus­pected of pos­sess­ing, but not pro­duc­ing or dis­sem­i­nat­ing, child porn in­clud­ing images of pre-pubescent chil­dren, a U.S. source fa­mil­iar with the case said, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The Vatican de­clined to iden­tify the priest, but said he was cur­rently in Vatican City and that Vatican pros­e­cu­tors had launched their own probe and sought ev­i­dence from the U.S.

If the ac­cu­sa­tions pan out, the case would be a ma­jor em­bar­rass­ment for the Vatican and Pope Fran­cis, who has pledged “zero tol­er­ance” for sex­ual abuse. The diplo­mat would be the se­cond from the Vatican’s diplo­matic corps to face pos­si­ble crim­i­nal charges for such crimes dur­ing Fran­cis’ pa­pacy. And any trial in the Vatican would come as Fran­cis’ own fi­nan­cial czar, Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell, is on trial in his na­tive Aus­tralia for al­leged his­toric sex abuse cases.

The U.S. State Depart­ment said it had asked the Vatican to lift the of­fi­cial’s diplo­matic im­mu­nity on Aug. 21. It said that re­quest was de­nied three days later.

The Vatican said re­call­ing the priest was con­sis­tent with diplo­matic prac­tice of sov­er­eign states. In de­clin­ing to iden­tify him, the Vatican said the case was sub­ject to con­fi­den­tial­ity, while still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It said the Vatican had asked for in­for­ma­tion about the case from the U.S; it wasn’t clear if any had been pro­vided.

The Vatican has re­called en­voys be­fore, in­clud­ing its thenam­bas­sador to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, who was re­called in 2013 af­ter be­ing ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing young boys on the Caribbean island. The Vatican sub­mit­ted him first to a canon­i­cal court pro­ceed­ing at the Vatican, and then putting him on trial in the Vatican’s crim­i­nal court, which has ju­ris­dic­tion over the Holy See’s diplo­matic corps.

Wesolowski was de­frocked by the church court. But he died be­fore the crim­i­nal trial got un­der­way. Do­mini­can pros­e­cu­tors ini­tially balked at the re­call, and they never filed charges be­cause of his im­mu­nity. Af­ter he was de­frocked, Wesolowski lost his diplo­matic im­mu­nity and the Vatican said he could be tried by other courts. How­ever, it re­fused to pro­vide Do­mini­can au­thor­i­ties with in­for­ma­tion about his where­abouts or how even he had pleaded to the charges.

The Vatican doesn’t have ex­tra­di­tion treaties. In 2013 it crim­i­nal­ized child porn pos­ses­sion, dis­tri­bu­tion and pro­duc­tion in its crim­i­nal code. Pos­ses­sion car­ries a pos­si­ble jail term of up to two years and a 10,000-euro fine.

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