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.
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.