Pope’s envoy in the Dominican Republic is abruptly removed because … oh, you’ve guessed it!

AMIDST “rumours” that Archbishop Josef Wesolowski has been kiddie-fiddling, the Catholic Church has speedily removed their nuncio from the Dominican Republic, and Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, confirmed that that Church is conducting an investigation.

But he declined to provide any details about the accusations against the Polish-born prelate.

Archbishop Josef Wesolowski

Archbishop Josef Wesolowski

Authorities in the Dominican Republic say they will investigate allegations of child sex abuse against the papal envoy to the Caribbean country.

Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito was careful to note that his office is aware only of  “rumours” about the papal nuncio and has not received any accusations.

A nuncio is the pope’s ambassador to a country and such an abrupt removal is rare.

Dominguez told reporters at a news conference that the investigation was in its initial stages and largely in response to media reports of allegations of sexual misconduct by Wesolowski as well as a friend and fellow priest. He said that he had designated a senior official to lead the investigation and coordinate with the Vatican.

We will not allow anyone to use the Catholic Church or other religious institutions as a shield to commit illegal acts, especially against children.

Wesolowski’s sudden departure from the Dominican Republic in recent days has been the cause of feverish speculation in local media. Dominican television network NCDN, citing a statement from the director of a community group, reported that Wesolowski had slept in the same room as several altar boys at his beach house.

Shortly before his removal, several residents of the mountain town of Juncalito made allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev Alberto Gil Wojciech, also a Polish priest and a friend of Wesolowski. The community leader, Pedro Espinal, told reporters that Wojciech took altar boys to the home of Wesolowski.

Wojciech was in Poland on vacation when the allegations surfaced and has not returned to the Dominican Republic.

The fact that the Vatican took such a significant move as to recall him and relieve Wesolowski of his duties indicated that the Vatican, at least, found there was enough weight to the rumours to warrant further investigation.

Pope Frankie has instructed the Vatican to continue its tough line against sexually abusive priests, instructing the head of the Vatican office that handles abuse cases to act “decisively” to protect children, help victims and take the necessary measures to punish the guilty. Inn July he also signed off on legislation criminalising child sex abuse and other sexual crimes — laws that apply to Vatican employees as well as diplomatic staff.

The whereabouts of the 65-year-old Wesolowski were unknown.

Pope Ratzinger had put Wesolowski in the post in 2008. He had previously served as papal nuncio in Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan, Kyrgzstan and Uzbekistan, and before that, Bolivia.

He was ordained a priest in 1972 and entered into the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1980, serving in Vatican embassies in Africa, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark, the Catholic news agency Zenit reported when he was named Dominican nuncio in 2008.

In addition to being the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Wesolowski was also apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico.

Hat tip: Cesar