VATICAN CITY, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a former Vatican diplomat accused of child sexual abuse, has lost his diplomatic immunity, a Vatican spokesman said, and could be tried in the Dominican Republic.
Wesolowski, 66, formerly the Vatican's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, has been defrocked and relieved of priestly duties. He may be tried in the Vatican on criminal charges, but the loss of immunity opens him up to prosecution in the Dominican Republic.
He was recalled by the Vatican last year, before he could face a judicial inquiry and possible prosecution in the Dominican Republic. His recall was done in secret, angering Dominican authorities, after which diplomatic immunity was invoked -- a violation of the Catholic Church's own guidelines on handling sex abuse matters. Wesolowski allegedly paid underage boys to engage in sexual acts during his five-year tenure as ambassador, and is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for sex abuse.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, in a statement Monday, denied the Vatican attempted to cover up the case, but added Wesolowski "might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him," a reference to Dominican extradition.
A Vatican tribunal found Wesolowski guilty in June and removed him from the priesthood, a conviction he is appealing. If it is upheld, he would face a Vatican criminal trial and face the possibility of 12 years in prison. He has not yet been charged in the Dominican Republic, where the largely Catholic population was outraged to learn he had been recalled.
The case is also being watched in Wesolowski's native Poland, where prosecutors have attempted to extradite him.