Once again, the scandal of child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests has made it all the way to Rome. In this case, the Dominican Republic’s papal nuncio (the Vatican version of an ambassador) has been called back to Rome after his name was linked to abuse allegations.
The Vatican insists that Polish-born Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, removed from office late last month, has not been accused of molesting anybody. However, official channels are withholding details about what really happened. A Vatican spokesman confirmed that the Church is conducting an investigation but refused to provide details about its subject matter. Francisco Dominguez Brito, the Attorney General for the Dominican Republic, however, has not been so reticent, and has announced his plans to investigate and prosecute Wesolowski in spite of the difficulties of criminally investigating a diplomatic figure.
Days after the nuncio’s removal from his post, investigative journalist Nuria Piera aired a televised documentary showing that Wesolowski visited the nation’s capital to engage in sexual activity with underage boys who were paid for their services. Piera, who has been commended with an American “Women of Courage” plaque for her past reportage, says the documentary’s allegations resulted from a year-long journalistic investigation.
In the documentary, Piera links Wesolowski to disgraced priest Alberto Gil Nojache, another Polish priest practicing in the Dominican Republic until his suspension in May 2013, at which time he is thought to have returned to Poland. At least fourteen allegations exist against Nojache, according to Piera. Dominican Monsignor Agripino Nuñez confirmed the links between the two prelates, adding that the pair have teamed up in the past to travel, along with a group of young boys, to a villa in the country’s Juan Dolio resort area.
Naturally, the cardinal’s office in Santo Domingo refuses to make a public statement on either suspect. However, the cardinal appears to have warm feelings towards Wesolowski, at least, calling him a “great friend and promoter of peace”. Just for fun, it’s worth noting that Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez is the same guy who stirred up controversy earlier this year for calling ambassadorial nominee James Brewster a “maricón” (faggot) during a press conference.
Some have argued that the decision to remove Wesolowski from office pending investigation confirms Pope Francis’ stated commitment to rooting out the priestly abuse problem in the Church. However, the hierarchy’s refusal to be open about the charges suggests otherwise to many seasoned Vatican-watchers. Barbara Dorris, outreach director at SNAP (Survivors’ Network for those Abused by Priests), put it this way:
Like all of his predecessors, Pope Francis is acting belatedly, secretively, and recklessly. Catholic officials act only when forced to do so by media pressure. When they do act, they act secretively — in this case, by not disclosing the allegations, the suspension, or the reason for the suspension.
It’s not exactly a well-kept secret: the Attorney General is talking about it, and there was a televised documentary. It doesn’t take a genius to guess why Wesolowski and Nojache have been pulled from their positions. In this case, the Vatican’s customary secrecy gains them nothing. It just keeps them looking deeply suspect and untrustworthy in the eyes of the world.
It’s hard to understand why they just don’t get that.