Vatican diplomat recalled from U.S. during child-porn investigation

This story has been updated with comments from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

VATICAN CITY — A member of the Vatican diplomatic corps serving in Washington has been recalled to the Vatican where he is involved in a criminal investigation involving child pornography, the Vatican said.

The Vatican press office said Sept. 15 that it was notified Aug. 21 by the U.S. State Department "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."

"The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City," the press office said.

The Associated Press reported that the State Department confirmed it had asked the Vatican to lift the official's diplomatic immunity. It said that request was denied.

The Vatican said the priest's identity and other details are covered by "investigative confidentiality" during the preliminary investigation stage. The Vatican yearbook lists the nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, and three priests as making up the diplomatic staff at the Washington nunciature.

After receiving the notification from the State Department, the Vatican said, "the Secretariat of State transmitted this information to the promoter of justice of the Vatican tribunal." The promoter of justice is the Vatican's chief prosecutor.

"The promoter of justice opened an investigation and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case," the Vatican said.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the investigation is concentrated on matters defined as "crimes against children" in the Vatican's 2013 "Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters."

Specifically, he said, the investigation is referring to what the law defines as "child pornography," which "means any representation, by whatever means, of a minor engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities as well as any representation of the sexual parts of a minor for primarily sexual purposes."

Burke also referred reporters to section 10 of the supplementary norms, which discuss criminal penalties for a person found guilty of producing or selling and trading child pornography; in those cases Vatican law foresees a maximum of 12 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 250,000 euros ($299,000).

Following this morning’s bulletin from the Holy See, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston has issued the following statement:

“This is a serious issue. We hope the Holy See will be forthcoming with more details. While we don’t know all the facts, consistent with our Charter, we reaffirm that when such allegations occur, an immediate, thorough, and transparent investigation should begin in cooperation with law enforcement and immediate steps be taken to protect children. The protection of children and young people is our most sacred responsibility.”

Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017