For­mer en­voy, charged with child sex­ual abuse, found dead: Vat­i­can


The Vat­i­can’s for­mer am­bas­sador to the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, who had been charged by church pros­e­cu­tors with sex­u­ally abus­ing chil­dren in the Caribbean coun­try, died Fri­day of ap­par­ent nat­u­ral causes as he awaited trial, the Vat­i­can said.

Jozef Wesolowski, 67, was found dead early Fri­day in the Vat­i­can room where he has been held on house ar­rest, a state­ment from the Vat­i­can said.

Vat­i­can of­fi­cials im­me­di­ately in­ter­vened and ini­tial checks “in­di­cated that the death was from nat­u­ral causes,” a press state­ment said.

It said the Vat­i­can pros­e­cu­tor or­dered an im­me­di­ate au­topsy and that Pope Fran­cis was in­formed.

Wesolowski had been due to go on trial in a Vat­i­can tri­bunal on July 11 for al­legedly caus­ing grave psy­cho­log­i­cal harm to vic­tims and pos­sess­ing an enor­mous quan­tity of child pornog­ra­phy. But on the morn­ing of the hear­ing, he was hos­pi­tal­ized in in­ten­sive care be­cause of an uniden­ti­fied “sud­den ill­ness.” No new trial date was made public and the pre­sid­ing judge had ad­journed the trial in­def­i­nitely.

Wesolowski was pre­vi­ously de­frocked un­der the Vat­i­can’s canon law pro­ce­dures but was fac­ing pos­si­ble jail time if con­victed in its civil tri­bunal.

The trial had been seen as a high-pro­file way for Fran­cis to make good on pledges to pun­ish high-rank­ing church­men in­volved in sex abuse of mi­nors, ei­ther by mo­lest­ing chil­dren or by sys­tem­at­i­cally cov­er­ing up for priests who did. Re­cent changes to the Vat­i­can le­gal code un­der Fran­cis’ lead­er­ship al­lowed pros­e­cu­tors to broaden their case against Wesolowski.

Charges in­cluded pos­ses­sion of what pros­e­cu­tors de­scribed as enor­mous quan­ti­ties of child pornog­ra­phy on his two com­put­ers, in­clud­ing af­ter Wesolowski was re­called to the Vat­i­can in 2013 fol­low­ing the emer­gence of ru­mors that he sex­u­ally abused shoeshine boys near the wa­ter­front in Santo Domingo, the cap­i­tal of the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic.

Wesolowski was the first such high-rank­ing Vat­i­can prelate to be crim­i­nally charged at the Holy See for sex­u­ally abus­ing mi­nors.

The case was par­tic­u­larly del­i­cate be­cause Wesolowski wasn’t just another priest, but rather a di­rect rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the pope and had been or­dained as a priest and bishop by his fel­low Pole, St. John Paul II.

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