Archbishop Wesołowski's trial starts tomorrow:
The trial of the former nuncio Józef Wesołowski from Poland marks the first time that the church has used the criminal justice system put in place by the Argentinian pontiff to handle cases of alleged clerical wrongdoing.
Allegations that Wesołowski paid teenage boys for sexual acts while he was the Vatican's top diplomat in the Dominican Republic rocked the Holy See when the story broke two years ago. Wearing a baseball cap low over his head, he allegedly trawled the promenade in Santo Domingo for victims among the shoeshine boys
Although a certain proportion of such allegations have always been false, the increase in and media focus on allegations of historic child abuse in English-speaking countries (called the post-Savile spike) has led to a huge increase with (according to defence lawyers) a disproportionate number of false allegations, brought by attention-seekers, the mentally ill or malicious and people wanting compensation. This case is rather different though - it all started of because of concerns from his colleagues within the church.
The child pornography charges (which happened while he was in the Vatican) is a bit of a smoking gun. In the the UK, that crime is easier to commit than you think - anyone with a copy of The Sun from the 1980s in their attic or lining a drawer is guilty of possessing it if there's a 17 year old page 3 girl, and 'downloading' doesn't actually mean that - it can just be a thumbnail you didn't click on or even scroll down to. But not in The Vatican - there it does presumably mean he downloaded stuff.
Although there really is a vile witch hunt in some countries at the moment, with the worst kinds of opportunists fabricating stories, especially against celebrities, knowing they can get attention from it as well as compensation from the government even if no charges are brought. The 'victims' or 'survivors' lobby groups are rabid and aggressive, the internet is full of fantasy about famous people and some of the symptoms of the current Moral Panic (the so-called 'Holly's Army' and the false accusations of ritual abuse in Hampstead)) are bizarre. This case however doesn't seem to be like that.
We should not uncritically accept an allegation as true (though this now happens in some countries - in Britain and Australia the official government policy since 2013 is that all complainants "will be believed") nor should we convict without witnesses or forensic evidence (ditto). In this case, I only hope that justice is seen to be done, whether the allegations are true or false. If he's innocent, he should be cleared, and if he's guilty he should be punished. His job should not have a bearing on this.
Vatican officials should have raced to the Dominican Republic and publicly declared their concerns as soon as the rumours about Wesołowski emerged.
"It should have begged people who may have suffered to go to the police or prosecutors," he said. "In Poland, a similar public plea should have been made. Had that happened, Wesołowski would likely be in prison now and more of his victims would have broken their silence."