As the countdown continues towards Pope Francis’ first meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse, which is expected next week, recent days have brought reminders that the challenges facing the pontiff as he attempts to lead the church out of the scandals are both stunningly simple and maddeningly complex.
Here’s the simple part: For reasons of both PR and substance, it’s critical that Francis not send any signals of retreat. Two developments last week underscored that point.
First, the Vatican announced Friday that Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski has been sentenced to laicization, meaning he’s to be stripped of his status both as a bishop and a priest.
A former papal ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Wesolowski was recalled in August after a local TV network charged the 66-year-old with paying for sex with underage boys and being a frequent visitor to a Santo Domingo neighborhood known for prostitution with minors.
Wesolowski has two months to appeal the verdict, and in the meantime he’ll be under a sort of house arrest. It remains to be seen if Wesolowski will be extradited to face charges in the Dominican Republic or Poland, with the Vatican vowing to cooperate with any such request. He’s also subject to criminal prosecution under the laws of the Vatican City State.
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