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Pope Francis ready to jail laicized archbishop for abusing boys
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Stop abusing children! This seems to be the message that Pope Francis is sending out by defrocking an Archbishop for sexually abusing boys. Last Friday, the Vatican defrocked Archbishop Josef Wesolowski for sexually abusing children. The Archbishop was the former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic and is the highest ranking official to be defrocked for the crime.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Vatican has defrocked Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, the former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic following an investigation into his sexual abuse of boys. He is the highest-yet ranking official of the Church to be so punished.
The former Archbishop, now just Josef Wesolowski, has two months to appeal his dismissal and laicization. He is no longer a priest of the Church.
Pray for the victims of abuse, may they be healed.
Following his period of appeal, during which he may or may not choose to fight the decision, he will face a criminal trial under the Vatican City State tribunal. If convicted, he will face a jail term. The Vatican has recently updated its laws to punish with criminal penalties those who sexually abuse children and says it will take measures to ensure that Wesolowski does not flee justice.
Pope Francis has instituted a zero-tolerance crackdown on clergy who abuse children, saying they would not have any special privileges and that even high-ranking offenders would be severely and swiftly punished.
Pope Francis is the first Pope to take such drastic measures to deal with the problem of child sexual abuse in the Church although both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI also took steps to protect children. The measures now instituted by Pope Francis are the most significant in history, ensuring that offenders cannot use the Church as cover and will face certain prison time if found guilty.
Dominican police initiated an investigation on Wesolowski after he was accused to at least making boys masturbate for his own gratification, according to authorities there. Dominican authorities never filed charges though because he was a foreign diplomat. However, the Vatican immediately took up the case and he was promptly removed from his position.
The Vatican has claimed jurisdiction in the case perhaps ready to set an example that the Church is willing to pursue child abusers itself and punish them within their own system which includes jail.
The Church has historically imprisoned people in the past, but typically with the sanction of the state. In the past century, the Church has not used its power to imprison, leaving domestic authorities to do the work in cases where a crime has been committed.
Most recently, Pope Benedict's butler was sentenced to jail by a Vatican tribunal and imprisoned for leaking sensitive Vatican documents to a news reporter. The butler was later released early as a gesture of mercy by Pope Benedict.
However, it will probably go much worse for Wesolowski who faces a prison term and isn't likely to be pardoned by Pope Francis. Pope Francis is clearly eager to set a new precedent within the Church and to demonstrate to the world that the Church isn't going to abide the abuse of children any longer.
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