For nuncio accused of abuse, Dominicans want justice at home, not abroad / The New York Times

“… Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.”

He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.

“The boys say he gave them money to perform sexual acts. They called him ‘the Italian because he spoke Spanish with an Italian accent.

“It was only after he was spirited out of the country, the boys say, his picture splashed all over the local news media, that they learned his real identity: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

“’He definitely seduced me with money,’ said Francis Aquino Aneury, who says he was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasingly larger sums for sexual acts. ‘I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.’

“The case is the first time that a top Vatican ambassador, or nuncio — who serves as a personal envoy of the pope — has been accused of sexual abuse of minors …

“… Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.

“The Vatican’s handling of the case shows both the changes the church has made in dealing with sexual abuse, and what many critics call its failures. When it comes to removing pedophiles from the priesthood, the Vatican is moving more assertively and swiftly than before. But as Mr. Wesolowski’s case suggests, the church continues to be reluctant to report people suspected of abuse to the local authorities and allow them to face justice in secular courts …

“The people used to say, ‘I want my child to go to a Catholic church,’ said the Rev. Rogelio Cruz, a Catholic priest in Santo Domingo. ‘Now they say, ‘No child of mine is ever going to a Catholic church.’”

By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story.

Also of interest, “A familiar figure on the Santo Domingo waterfront,” by Meridith Kohut for The New York Times.

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