Vatican sex abuse trial halted as ex-archbishop falls ill

Jozef Wesolowski in a 15 March, 2013 file photo

It is not clear why the 66-year-old was hospitalised

he trial of a former archbishop charged with child sex offences has been adjourned after the defendant fell ill hours before he was due to appear in court at the Vatican.


Jozef Wesolowski, 66, is accused of paying for sex with children in the Dominican Republic from 2008-2013.

He is being treated in intensive care for an unspecified illness.

Wesolowski is the first high-ranking Catholic to stand trial in the Vatican on sex abuse charges.

He has already been found guilty by a special church tribunal and defrocked.

His case is seen as a test of Pope Francis’ push to tackle sex offenders.

Wesolowski, who is originally from Poland, had been recalled from his role as the Vatican’s envoy to the Dominican Republic in 2013 after allegations surfaced accusing him of abusing boys there.

The trial opened but the accused was not there

He is also charged with possession of child pornography.

If convicted, he could face between six and 10 years in a Vatican jail.

Pope Francis has overhauled the Vatican’s justice system to allow bishops to be tried in the Papal state, after the church was accused of not doing enough to tackle sex crimes against children.
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Vatican trial for Józef Wesołowski a pivotal moment for Pope Francis

Now-defrocked Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, led a Mass in Santo Domingo in 2013.


Ultimately, it’s the threat of criminal sanctions from Vatican tribunals that underlies new accountability measures Francis has created to face the two most chronic sources of scandal he inherited when he was elected in March 2013 – sexual abuse and financial misconduct.

The Wesołowski trial is the first major test of that criminal justice system under Francis. And it will have a great deal to say about whether this pontiff’s celebrated vow that there will be no “daddy’s boys” on his watch, meaning clerics able to remain above the law, actually has teeth.

Now 66, Wesołowski was born in Nowy Targ, Poland, in 1948, and ordained a priest by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Krakow, the future St. John Paul II, in 1972. Wesołowski served as a papal diplomat in a variety of nations in the late 1990s and 2000s, eventually being named the nuncio, or ambassador, to the Dominican Republic in 2008, holding the rank of archbishop for papal envoys.

He resigned as the nuncio to the Dominican Republic in 2013 amid allegations of child abuse, including charges that he was in the habit of picking up underage “shoeshine boys” in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, and paying them for sexual acts.

Wesołowski was recalled to Rome in August 2013 and faced an internal ecclesiastical probe, which led to his being laicized, or removed from the priesthood, in June 2014. In itself, laicization is a rare step for a bishop, and a clear signal the Vatican believes the charges against him have merit.

Since the scandal broke, the question has arisen of why Wesołowski hasn’t been sent packing back to the Dominican Republic to face criminal charges. While the Vatican has said it would comply with any extradition request, it also insists that because Wesołowski was holding a Vatican passport at the time of the alleged crimes he first has to face sanctions under the Vatican’s own criminal law.

In effect, Francis himself created the legal basis for the trial in July 2013 by issuing an edict known as a motu proprio specifying that criminal laws of the Vatican City State are also applicable to employees, such as ambassadors, stationed in other parts of the world.

Last month a Vatican spokesman announced the Wesołowski trial would open on July 11, and predicted it would wrap up early in 2016. In addition to his conduct in the Dominican Republic, Wesołowski faces charges related to pornographic images reportedly discovered on a personal computer while living in Rome after his recall.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the trial would draw upon both information transmitted by investigators in the Dominican Republic and IT analysis by Vatican experts. The Vatican’s criminal tribunal is headed by a lay jurist named Giuseppe Dalla Torre, a longtime professor of law at the University of Bologna.

The Vatican does not have jury trials. Hearings are conducted before a judge, and if the initial procedure results in a conviction the accused party can appeal to a three-judge tribunal and ultimately to a Corte di Cassazione, or Supreme Court. Accused parties have the right to a public defender.

If he’s convicted, Wesołowski could face a sentence of six or seven years in prison on each count as well as a steep fine. That term could be served in a Vatican facility, though in the past when a Vatican court has imposed a lengthy sentence it’s generally been served in an Italian prison.

Aside from the details of Wesołowski’s personal situation, his case is key because no matter what happens it will set a precedent.

The last time a Vatican criminal court held a high-profile trial it was October 2012. And it lasted only four days. Former papal butler Paolo Gabriele admitted to stealing Vatican documents and leaking them to an Italian journalist, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was given a full pardon by Pope Benedict XVI two months later.

This time around, presumably, if Wesołowski is convicted a pardon seems highly unlikely.

With Gabriele, Benedict himself was the injured party and fully within his rights to decide to let the perpetrator off the hook. With Wesołowski, the real injured parties are the minors he allegedly abused, and Francis probably would not take it upon himself to waive the legal consequences of Wesołowski’s actions.

Ultimately, it’s precisely those consequences that form the bedrock of the pope’s new accountability systems. Both with sexual abuse and also various financial crimes, such as money-laundering and embezzlement, the new systems envision preliminary investigations by Vatican agencies, whose ultimate power is to refer the matter to the Vatican’s criminal prosecutor for possible charges.

Insiders and outsiders alike thus will be watching to see how Wesołowski’s trial plays out.

If the impression is of foot-dragging and cover-up, the take-away will be that promises of accountability ring hollow. If the trial unfolds in a transparent manner and, assuming guilt is established, a sentence commensurate with the crimes is imposed, then reasonable observers will conclude that the era of “daddy’s boys” in the Church really is over.

Francis, of course, knows what’s at stake. That’s why throughout this busy week on the road, he’ll no doubt keep one eye on what’s happening back in Rome.
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Oregon Catholic priest put on leave amid hidden camera probe

By Shelby Sebens

 An Oregon Catholic priest has been placed on leave by the Archdiocese of Portland as police investigate who placed a hidden camera, carefully disguised as an electrical outlet, in a church bathroom, the archdiocese said on Thursday.

The camera was discovered in late April near a toilet in the men’s bathroom of the St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood by a church member who took it immediately to Father Ysrael Bien, a police statement said.Fr.-Ysrael-Bien

But Bien didn’t report the camera to police until May 20 when he reported it stolen, Sherwood police spokesman Ty Hanlon said. Police are investigating how the camera wound up in the bathroom.

Bien has not been charged with a crime or named as a suspect. But the Archdiocese of Portland placed him on administrative leave last week in response to his failure to immediately report the hidden camera to police.

“It is deeply troubling that well-established Church protocols for the protection of parishioners were not followed,” Archbishop Alexander Sample said in a statement. “Finding a hidden camera in a church restroom should have been the cause for prompt and decisive action.”

Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Archdiocese, referred questions to the Sherwood Police Department. Bien could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Archdiocese assisted the parish in hiring investigators that conducted a sweep of the St. Francis school and parish and found no additional hidden cameras, according to the statement. Though the camera is missing, police said when it was found it did not contain a memory card.

“At the time of discovery it was not recording people,” Hanlon said.

Though police have conducted several interviews and searches related to the disappearance of the camera, they have not been able to identify a suspect, he added.

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Episcopalians vote to let gay couples wed in churches

Thousands of members seated in a hall in at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA.

Thousands attend the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah June 28, 2015. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is held every three years in different cities around the country.


The U.S. Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday (July 1) to let gay couples wed in the denomination’s religious ceremonies, reinforcing its support for same-sex nuptials days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The church, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, became in 2012 the largest U.S. religious denomination to approve a liturgy for clergy to use in blessing same-sex unions, including gay marriages in states where they were already legal.

While some clergy and lay members disagreed with the proposal put before the church’s triennial convention, held in Salt Lake City, the faith’s House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops, which overwhelmingly approved the measure in a separate vote on Tuesday (June 30).

“In 1976, the church promised full and equal claim to LGBT members, and we’ve spent those years making that resolution a reality,” said the Rev. Susan Russell of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

“Today’s action is a huge step … toward a promised land of a church that fully includes all its members,” she said.

But the Rev. Neal Michell, dean of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas, said he opposed such unions because “the teaching of scriptures says marriage itself is between a man and a woman. That’s the teaching of the (Book of Common Prayer) and our catechism.”

Under the new rules, clergy can opt out of performing gay marriage ceremonies.

The Episcopal Church is the 14th largest U.S. religious denomination, with about 2 million members, according to the National Council of Churches.

In 2003, its members elected Gene Robinson, who lived with his male partner, as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, leading to fractious relations with conservative Episcopal dioceses in the United States and some members of the global Anglican Communion, especially in Africa.
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What is it about some Catholics…

What is it about some Catholics and their persecution complex?


Gay Marriage Opponents Act Like an Oppressed Minority in Catholic Group’s Ad Message is even styled as a coming-out announcement

About halfway through this two-and-a-half-minute film from conservative nonprofit the Catholic Vote, its treacly, overlystylized message becomes clear. These Catholics are nervous about revealing their stance on same-sex marriage because they’re (spoiler alert!) against it.

That stance is nothing new. And everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as it doesn’t lead to legislation that discriminates. No, what’s galling about the ad is its appropriation of LGBTQ themes to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The ad, with a straight face, position Catholics as a persecuted group for not having their message of intolerance (here blatantly recast as its opposite) widely accepted these days. It even plays like a coming-out video for Catholics who are afraid to take the “brave” step of voicing their objection to equality. That’s a pretty audacious tactic—disingenuous and disrespectful, to say the least.


Beyond that, it is rather illogical. You can’t reposition a group as oppressed when there is no movement to oppress them. And you certainly can’t equate being called a bigot for spouting intolerance with anything near what members of the LGBTQ community have experienced for decades.

The empowering music is on point, though.

Oh, and thankfully there’s already a parody…

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