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Will the Vatican extradite Josef Wesolowski?

Did you read Laurie Goodstein's disturbing story about the former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Josef Wesolowski? Do. Wesolowski was recalled to the Vatican after it was alleged that he had sexually abused minors (Goodstein spoke with several of his accusers). He was laicized, and could face a criminal trial at the Vatican (Pope Francis updated Vatican criminal law last summer). Obviously that isn't terribly comforting to some Dominicans who would rather see him tried in the country where he committed his alleged crimes. If Pope Francis is serious about reforming the church's response to clerical sexual abuse, why did he allow Wesolowski to escape local justice?

According to a Vatican statement released this afternoon, the former nuncio may face extradition after all--because, now that he's been laicized, he no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Former nuncio Josef Wesolowski has recently appealed, within the prescribed limit of two months, the most serious canonical sentence of a return to the lay state that has been imposed upon him. The appeal will be judged without delay over the course of the coming weeks, most likely in October 2014.

 It is important to note that former nuncio Wesolowski has ceased functioning as a diplomat of the Holy See and has therefore lost his related diplomatic immunity, and has been previously stated, the punitive procedure of the Vatican’s civil judiciary departments will continue as soon as the canonical sentence becomes definitive.

The statement continues, suggesting that Wesolowski was returned to Rome so that he could be swiftly returned to the lay state and relieved of his diplomatic duties, which means that he could be tried by another country.

Regarding stories that have appeared over the past few days in various media, it is important to note that the Authorities of the Holy See, from the very first moments that this case was made known to them, moved without delay and correctly in light of the fact that former nuncio Wesolowski held the position of a diplomatic representative of the Holy See. This action relates to his recall to Rome and in the treatment of the case in relation to Authorities of the Dominican Republic.

 Far from any intention of a cover-up, this action demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case, about which Pope Francis is duly and carefully informed and one which the Pope wishes to address justly and rigorously.

We must finally state that since former nuncio Wesolowski has ended all diplomatic activity and its related immunity, he might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.

Does that mean the Vatican will extradite him? Does the Vatican even have any extradition treaties with other countries? In January the Vatican said that it hadn't received any requests to extradite Wesolowski. According to Goodstein, the Dominican attorney general didn't try to have Wesolowski extradited "because he has diplomatic immunity, and 'the law would not allow it.'"

But today the Vatican seems to have issued an invitation for the attorney general to seek Wesolowski's extradition. Perhaps he ought to take them up on it.

H/T David Gibson

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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The Vatican apparently has no extradition treaty with the DR, but is that necessary to do a one-off extradition? I'm not sure how it works.'

His native Poland also wants him, and he has been spotted strolling around Rome's historic center, so if he leaves the Vatican grounds Italy could arrest him and try him or extradite him.

The Vatican doesn't seem to want him around -- and what would they do if he is convicted and sentecned to up to 12 years in jail as provided for by Vatican City laws (which are separate from church canon law re defrocking etc)?

Two things ... I've read the Vatican could of and can waive diplomatic immunity and so it could have always let him be tried in the Dominican Republic .... he really only has diplomatic immunity in the Domincan Republic, not in Poland (he is not the nuncio to Poland but he's an archbishop there and a citizen), so there's no reason he could not have been extrdicted to Poland.

Two UN committes had to weigh in on this ... the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Torture Committee both exhorted the Vatican to prosecute him - I've got to wonder if that's the only reason they've done anything at all.

The Vatican refusing to extradite him to Poland ...

Overall this Vatican has been rapid to act in historic fashion. Credit Francis with that. That is surely good news. No question much more info about the Archbishops will be coming out daily as investigators and the press are swooping down on in two continents. 

both exhorted the Vatican to prosecute him

Bad move for the Vatican to agree to this. Far better to engage in the process they are currently upon. "Invite" countries to extradite him to stand trial in those countries, waive diplomatic immunity and allow justice to run its course. Afterall Paul (?) wrote in Romans:

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."

He never suggested that the ecclesia develop civil or canon law to govern itself in that sense. 

Mr. Gibson - having a difficult time figuring out what Francis/Vatican is up to?

- as Crystal said well, most countries in this situation would have waived diplomatic immunity and let him stand and fall in a Dominican Republic court.

- why didn't Vatican/Francis do that?  Why have him return to the Vatican?  Was it to underline the Vatican laws Francis revised last year?  If so, as Bill said, action has been exceedingly fast but without any type of justice for the victims (sorry, laicization isn't justice)  Is this some type of message that Francis is sending?  If so, to whom?  And, of course, typical of canon law, this guy has recourse to an appeal so this will drag out into October?  Why?

- now that he has been laicized, he no longer as diplomatic immunity and the Vatican could respond to a request from the Dominican Republic.  Why the back and forth?

- don't see Poland as having any part to play in this.

- now we learn that the Vatican and the revised legal process has no ability to prosecute (hasn't been developed yet) and if found guilty, no means to imprison him.  Sounds sort of cartoonish in the long run?

- Is this supposed to send a message?  and to whom?  Again, victims seem to be completely forgotten in this process?  It is just another form of clericalism, protect holy orders, protect the Vatican State?

- How does this lay any groundwork for a way forward for episcopal conferences to deal with situations such as this?  And, even more complex, this guy is the abuser - what about bishops who cover up but aren't personally abusing victims sexually (open question about how they are abusing victims via cover up)


Poland plays a part in that he's being investigated there too for  past sex abuse.

An interesting post about the legal questions of extradition ...

This will be a good test of where pope Francis stands on sex abuse. I would like the Dominican republic to ask for Wezolowski's extradition, put him on trial, convict him to some time in prison, and send him to the Vatican for the sentence to be executed there. The situation is confusing right now.

We are used to the contradictory signals sent by the curia whenever a new sex abuse scandal hits the media. Their words scatter in all directions like hens in a panic when a truck drives in. Those words mean nothing. The good of the faithful, justice for the victims, the rights of the accused - all that is forgotten, and their decisions are random, freezing in place or veering right and left according to the wind of panic.

But all we've read so far about pope Francis is that he is pained. Let's see if he can put some order in this confusion, and whether he can deal with this case of sex abuse  in a manner that is just and still merciful, and maybe even transparent! One can always dream...

This is why conservative forces retrench and double down on denial obstinacy. Liberals show that they exhibit the human tendency to ask for blood. Whether you appreciate it or not, this is historic speed and was done before the press got into it. Although a Dominican Republic TV station did send a crew out to follow the Nuncio. 

As far as I know no Archbishop or Nuncio has ever been punitively dealt with this quickly. So whether you understand it or not the territroy is somewhat new. So mercy does demand fairness while the crime must be pursued with all deliberate speed. 

What are you talking about, Bill? According to people the Times talked to, he's walking around a free man. Who cares if he was laicized? I get that you're a Francis apologist, but c'mon.


(Sending this guy into a Dominican prison would surely be a de facto death sentence, so I kind of doubt he'll be sent back to the DR without some prearranged conditions).

This ABC News story, datelined just an hour before I'm typing this comment, indicates that, thus far, the Dominican Republic has not yet filed charges against Wesolowski - because previously he had diplomatic immunity.   It's possible that the Vatican is awaiting criminal charges before cosidering the extradition request.  The Dominican Republic's attorney general seems to declare himself satisfied with the progress, and it appears that the Dominican Republic and the Vatican are cooperating in the investigation.

The same story also makes a point made by the Canadian law professor to whose blog Crystal linked - that because Wesolowski's alleged crimes occurred before the new Vatican criminal law took effect, it's possible that the Vatican will decide that it can't apply the law retroactively to Wesolowski.

Is there precedent for the Vatican waiving diplomatic immunity for a member of its diplomatic corp?  Even if Francis' regime wishes to do so in this case, it may want to think through how it does it, if this is breaking new ground.

Let's let this play out.  Extradition requests can be appealed by the subject of the request.  Abe also raises an important point: the Vatican may have legitimate reasons to not wish to extradite anyone to the Dominican Republic.  


This is why conservative forces retrench and double down on denial obstinacy.

Catholic conservatives aren't deniers about sex abuse.  To speak in generalities: they're filled with revulsion about the abuse and want the abusers and any authorities who enabled or covered up the abuse to be drummed out of their positions and out of the church.   Quite a few conservatives would expand that circle far beyond those who abuse children, and apply those sanctions to any clergy who abuse, enable or cover up any sort of sexual impropriety, even if it is between consenting adults.


Jim P, 

Please!  All the conservatives supported Maciel until the end. They also denied abuse until the Globe gave them no choice.

Bill - that may be your perception, but it isn't mine.  Check out the back issues of First Things (both print edition and blog) to see conservative thought leadership on both Maciel and Law.

As I indicated in my previous comment, conservatives approach the scandals from a different point of view than liberals, and draw some different conclusions.  For example, many conservatives were convinced, and some still are convinced, that the abuse of minors by priests, particularly the abuse of teenage boys, is a manifestation of clerical homosexual sexual activity that wrongly is countenanced by church authorities, and had those authorities had the cajones to crack down on that activity, the scandal wouldn't have happened or at least would not have reached nearly the magnitude that it has.  Certainly, that is not a liberal point of view.  But if you've been reading Grant's series of posts on Archbishop Nienstedt and Curtis Wehmeyer, you'll have seen some anecdotes that lend credence to the conservative point of view.  And his new series on Urritigoity may lend further credence to it.

For the record, I don't subscribe to that conservative point of view: I don't see the abuse scandal as being in essence a scandal of homosexual priests run amok.  

To caricature the point of difference on this: a liberal looks at priests abusing teenage boys and concludes, "Fire all the bishops!"  A conservative looks at the same situation and concludes, "Ban homosexual priests!"  But they share an abhorrence of the abuse.  I don't know of a constituency for child abuse.  


I don't think so, Jim. Maciel received support from Neuhaus, even after the Vatican sanctioned Maciel. Neuhaus defended him for years. As had Mary Ann Glendon, George Weigel, Deal Hudson, and Bill Bennet. At least Weigel had the decency to change his tune. 

8 March 1997 Father Richard John Neuhaus writes: “One cannot help but be greatly impressed by both the discipline and the joy evinced by so many young men who have followed the vision of Father Maciel in surrendering their lives to Christ and His Church. I confidently pray that your apostolate will survive and flourish long after these terrible attacks have been long forgotten.”

Deal Hudson in Crisis calls on the Courant to “withdraw its false article and apologize to Father Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ, and faithful Roman Catholics.”

30 April William Bennett writes, “The flourishing of the Legionaries is a cause for hope in a time of much darkness. I look forward to continuing my involvement with and support of the Legion of Christ.”

23 May Mary Ann Glendon writes, “The recent revival of long discredited allegations against Father Maciel would come as a surprise were it not for the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing a resurgence of anti-Catholicism. One would have thought that Father Neuhaus's meticulous analysis of the evidence in First Things had put the matter to rest once and for all. As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man's radiant holiness.”

Grant - the same tune-changing is observable with regard to Law: Neuhaus supported him until he didn't.


Sorry, what? You mentioned "conservative thought leadership on Maciel"--there was none. There was enabling support. I don't recall much "conservative thought leadership" on Law either. 

I don't know whether this affinity for serial child abusers is a peculiar or particular character fault of Catholic conservatives, but I do know Mary Ann Glendon deserves a special amount of derision for her complicity in the rape and sodomy of children, and the exploitation of poor women, by all-time superstar sexual predator The Grand Legionnaire of Christ Marciel.

Glendon, for all her establishment credentials, not only charged to the barricades to defend the indefensible when allegations surfaced about the Legion's cult leader and financial improprieties, but she also put lots of Marciel's ill-gotten money in her own pocket betraying and corrupting her academic career and her public service.  Apparently, Glendon's credibility is for sale for the right price to the most nortorious clerical abusers.

[Is Glendon still the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences?  I have a lot of sympathy for Papa Francesco, but he needs to really clean house there in the Vatican.]

Then we learn in 2013 that her daughter, Elizabeth Lev, was having an affair - and eventually had a child - with the Legion of Christ pretty-boy priest Rev. Thomas Wilson who took every opportunity to lecture the rest of us on "moral relativism" when he was the Legion's media go-to-guy.  Their shot-gun wedding was attended by most of the Vatican glitterati.

That means that Glendon was shilling for the Legion all the while her daughter was starting a family with one of the Legion's high profile public faces.  Sleazy enough for you? 

Plus ca change, c'est le plus le meme chose.


How synergistic!  Jason Berry has a story in NCR on the Legion's very expensive attempt to reclaim its reputation with its new Magdala Center in Galilee.

How's this for dissemination of some world-class spinning from one of the Legion's operatives, Rev. Juan Maria Solana: 


The priest speaks his heart: "Marcial Maciel's initials are also MM, just like Mary Magdalene. She had a problematic past before her deliverance, so there's a parallel. Our world has double standards when it comes to morals. Some people have a formal, public display and then the real life they live behind the scenes.

Here's a link:

Yikes - here's a news item about the wedding of Elizabeth Lev and former priest Thomas Williams ...

Grant - here is the piece that I recall Neuhaus publicly calling (sort of) for Law's resignation.  He was writing quite a bit about the scandal during that 2002 time period, and it's possible to more or less trace the development of his thought as he came around.  Perhaps you would consider that 'leading from behind', as he was by no means the first to call for Law to go, but he did get there.  And that's what I was pointing out to Bill.  

 You may be right that he never got Maciel right.  What I had in mind was Weigel's pieces here and here.  I wasn't attuned to what he had written prior to that and am grateful for the background.

Weigel was the only one who corrected his egregious misreading of the Maciel scandal. Neuhaus never did.

Oh, for heaven's sake. MM are also the initials of Mr. Magoo. Thanks, Jim (and NCR and the egregious spokesman). I am going to go someplace and howl.

From total support for Maciel et alii many conservatives, noting the need to save face and own the issue, started blaming homosexuals for the whole abuse. First forgetting the massive cover-up which was also the issue. But the blatant politics of it is ths sorry part of it. Shades of Joe McCarthy accusing anyone who disagreed with of being communist. The American bishops and Wanderer types espousing abortion as the evil of the century. And they are seething in the background seeking ways to undermine Francis. 

And let us not go into the Iraq war. Perhaps the most shameful.

Fr Solana is making a compelling case that the Legion needs to be further reformed.

FWIW, this is Neuhaus in August, 2006, in the print edition's "The Public Square" column:

I do not know all that the CDF and the Holy Father know and am not privy to the considerations that led to their decision. It is reasonable to believe that they concluded that Fr. Maciel did do something very seriously wrong.

That quote is taken from a passage of the column that in turn seems to be a rewrite and expansion of this blog post from a bit earlier in 2006, in which he  says something similar in an even more circumlocutory way.

Whether he ever plainly said, "I was egregiously wrong for many years, and Maciel is guilty as hell", I'm not aware.   If he ever did, the horse presumably had left the barn long, long before.  He may have been one of those people who have an even harder time admitting he was wrong than most of us do.  I do take the blog post and that section of the column as amounting to an admission that, just possibly, he was badly wrong about Maciel.


Hey, Bill, you wrote, "All the conservatives supported Maciel until the end. They also denied abuse until the Globe gave them no choice."  I think the examples I tried to adduce to prove you wrong, actually prove you're right.  I apologize.

I don't.



Does anyone know where Josef Wesolowski is living now.? He should be arrested immediately...This serial child predator can not be allowed to roam the streets freely.
Thankfully because of the brave victims and the news media, there is a possibility that Josef Wesolowski could be extradited and stand trial for his crimes against innocent children in the Dominican Republic.

These victims are to be commended for their courage for speaking up and taking action about being sexually abused by Wesolowski.
This is not an easy thing to do, but it is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Some have many. Child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever, so let's hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may also have been harmed by Wesolowski, will find the courage to speak up and contact local law enforcement.  Your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
Judy Jones,  SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP is never happy. 

JSOL:  Obviously, you're not happy because it always about you.  A little too narcissisticly injured - even for you, don't you think?

When will there ever be enough accountability?  Enough justice?  Enough healing? Enough peace?

Leave it to you to leap to the defense of a predator like Wesolowski.  It must really threaten you clerics that poor street kids in the Dominican Republic come forward to tell their stories [in the NY Times no less] of abuse and exploitation at the hands of perpetrator like Wesolowski.  

With all your money and power, you clerics may be brought down my some poor street kids who shine shoes to survive?  How frightened you must be?

What will happen if both Poland and the DR want to extradite him?

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Poland’s ambassador to the Holy See has forcefully condemned the alleged sexual abuse of children by a Polish-born former archbishop and Vatican diplomat, and said Warsaw is considering a fresh request to extradite Jozef Wesolowski to face trial in his homeland.

Ambassador Piotr Nowina-Konopka said Wednesday (Aug. 27) the Polish government was reviewing its options after the Vatican announced this week that the former papal envoy to the Dominican Republic had been defrocked and no longer had diplomatic immunity.

“Without doubt Poland considers the acts that the archbishop is alleged to have carried out as particularly repugnant and Pope Francis’ firm approach to that type of crime has won great respect and full support in Poland,” Nowina-Konopka said.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) ...Francisco Dominguez Brito, the Dominican Republic’s attorney general, issued a statement saying it was “just and positive” for the Vatican to remove Wesolowski’s immunity and that the country would consider seeking the former archbishop’s extradition so he could stand trial there....

His comments were published on a Dominican news website and confirmed by an official at the Dominican Embassy in Rome on Tuesday (Aug. 26).

Jim Jenkins, your psychoanalysis is inapposite.

Have you anything to say about this miscarriage of justice, abetted by SNAP?:

Note the denial and offended narcissism of the witch-hunters on the NCR combox.

@ JSOL:  Inappropriate?  Really?  Sadly, any attention even if negative only encourages you.

It is unethical and unprofessional to "psychoanalyze" anyone in such a public form.  And trust me, you wouldn't want to have your analysis made public.

I thank you for admitting your posts are unethical and unprofessional, but I note you do not react at all to the miscarriage of justice to which I drew your attention. SNAP were not happy -- they never are -- when Lynn was put in jail, they wanted him defrocked as well. 

By the way,Jim Jenkins, the word I used was "inapposite", not "inappropriate" -- you seem to read neither  posts nor links before giving knee-jerk reactions. You should reflect on your online behavior.

@ JSOL:  You know very well that those two words are synonymous.  Your word choice is a reach for the more arcane and obtuse, as is usual for you.  

For the purposes of responding to you, the use of inappropriate more accurately connotes for the rest of the dotCommonweal audience the true nature and quality of your public speech.

You must be very afraid ...


You called for "thought police" the last time, now you are setting yourself up as a censor of diction.

"Inapposite" is what I said and what I meant to say, deliberately choosing a more objective word than the sniffy, prissy "inappropriate." I made the simple point that your comments on my alleged personality do not apply at all, fall by the wayside, have no basis in anything said by me. They are also inappropriate, if you like, in the sense of gross, out of place, uncalled for, and insulting. 

In this realm of attempted censorship, it is interesting to see that G. Slevin has been banished from NCR's comboxes:

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