A high rankling Vatican diplomat working in Washington has been recalled to Rome after the U.S. State Department said the priest may have violated child pornography laws.
In a statement the Vatican said that the State Department had notified the Holy See in August “of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington”
A spokesman for the State Department said the US had requested that the man’s diplomatic immunity be waived to open the way for possible prosecution, but the Vatican refused. The priest, who has now returned to Vatican City is awaiting the outcome of the Holy See investigation.
The unnamed Vatican diplomat returned to Rome after US prosecutors asked for the priest to be charged and face trial. The State Department also asked the Holy See, the body responsible for the governance of all Catholics, to rescind the man’s diplomatic immunity on August 21, but this request was denied, reports AP.
Vatican prosecutors have opened their own investigation into the allegations and are seeking evidence from the US. The diplomat is suspected of possessing child pornography, including images of pre-pubesant children.
In a statement, the Vatican confirmed that the State Department had notified it of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington,” Reuters reports.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to recalling priests suspected of either sexually abusing children, or accessing child pornography. In 2013, it recalled then-ambassador to the Dominican Republic Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski following allegations that he sexually abused young boys on the island.
Wesolowski was defrocked following a trial at the Vatican’s criminal court, losing his diplomatic immunity in the process. However the Vatican, which has no extradition treaties, failed to provide Dominican authorities with any clue as to his whereabouts or how he pleaded to the charges.
Pope Francis, who initially promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse, has been criticized for the lack of progress in dealing with the issue by survivors, their advocates and human right groups.
As of May this year, the Vatican had a backlog of 2,000 cases pertaining to allegations of sex abuse by priests.