Vatican's UN Envoy Says Bishop's Defrocking Shows Church Takes Abuse Seriously

By Josephine McKenna 07-02-2014

Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, permanent observer to the UN office in Geneva. Creative Commons image by Jean-Marc Ferré, UN.

The defrocking of a former Vatican ambassador is a “sign of the seriousness” with which Pope Francis and the Vatican are approaching the clergy sexual abuse scandal, according to the Holy See’s representative to United Nations agencies in Geneva.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi was tasked with defending the Catholic Church’s record when he presented reports to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child and the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva earlier this year.

During questioning, Tomasi was asked whether the Vatican would agree to extradite Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish archbishop and papal envoy, to his native Poland after he was recalled from the Dominican Republic last September on claims of sexual abuse.

Wesolowski was defrocked last week, and Tomasi said the former nuncio was being investigated by Vatican prosecutors. Speaking in Rome this week, Tomasi said he hoped other states and institutions would now follow the approach taken by the Holy See in dealing with cases of pedophilia.

Wesolowski, 65, is the highest-ranking church official to be defrocked over sexual abuse allegations and has two months to appeal his removal from the priesthood. After that process, Wesolowski could face charges in a criminal court, although the Vatican has claimed he has diplomatic immunity from secular courts.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the Vatican has not done enough to bring Wesolowski to justice. The victims advocacy group has demanded that the former diplomat face criminal prosecution beyond the walls of the city-state.

“If this Vatican move leads to Wesolowski being locked up, we’ll be encouraged. However, we fear that it won’t,” said David Clohessy, director of SNAP.

The Vatican committee set up by Pope Francis last year to fight sexual abuse of children in the church is due to meet in Rome for the second time this weekend. And for the first time, Francis is expected to meet abuse victims from Germany, the United Kingdom, and Ireland within the next few days at his private residence.

Josephine McKenna writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

Image: Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi is a permanent observer to the United Nations office in Geneva. Creative Commons image by Jean-Marc Ferré, United Nations.

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