The U.S. State Department asked that immunity be lifted on a priest over child pornography charges. The Vatican responded by swooping the alleged pervert back to Rome.
Pope Francis very famously doesn’t like walls, except, it seems, when they come in handy. At least that’s the impression that the Holy See is giving with its response to an August 21 request by the U.S. State Department to lift diplomatic immunity to charge a yet unnamed priest suspected of collecting child pornography. The accused priest, who was described as “high ranking” by the Associated Press, was instead whisked back to Rome where he is now safe from secular prosecution inside the Vatican’s fortified walls.
The Vatican Press Office issued a statement Friday morning with scant details. “The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City,” the statement says. “Having received such information from the United States government, the Secretariat of State transmitted this information to the Promoter of Justice of the Vatican Tribunal. The Promoter of Justice opened an investigation and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case. It should be noted that, as provided by the laws in force applicable to all preliminary inquiries, the investigations carried by the Promoter of Justice are subject to investigative confidentiality.”
In other words, same old story.
The Vatican has shown a remarkable capacity for opacity when it comes to the sinister crimes of clerical child sex abuse. Granted, this priest is not known to be accused of directly abusing children. But if he is in possession of child pornography, as the United States alleges, he might as well be, since child pornography is almost always filmed under horrific circumstances.
A spokesperson for the State Department told Reuters that they hoped the pope would keep his promise to “act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse.”
“The United States encourages the Holy See to ensure full implementation of its reforms and policies designed to protect minors and provide justice regarding allegations,” the spokesperson said.
The saga calls to mind several high profile cases in recent years when the Vatican preferred to protect its own rather than protect innocent children. In 2015, Josef Wesolowski, the Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic was accused of victimizing shoeshine boys in Santo Domingo. When the accusations first surfaced, he was whisked back to Rome so he wouldn’t have to face charges in a secular court.
While in Rome, Wesolowski was found hoarding more than 100,000 files with child pornography while inside Vatican City, presumably on the computer he brought back, rather than something he downloaded using a Vatican server.
He, too, was to face the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice at a special Vatican trial. But he died suddenly, at the age of 67, on Vatican grounds, apparently while watching TV.
More recently, the Vatican’s third in command, Cardinal George Pell, was sent back to Australia to face decades old child sex abuse allegations there that stemmed from his early days in the Australian church. He had been living under immunity that comes with what one might assume is a highly sought after diplomatic Vatican passport for several years while the Australians tried to get him to come back home. He finally went back this summer.