Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, 79, the head of the Catholic church in the Dominican Republic, is back in the news after ripping U.S. ambassador James “Wally” Brewster about comments he had made about corruption in the Dominican Republic.
In a meeting with reporters after Mass, Cardinal Lopez accused Brewster of promoting a gay rights agenda on Dominican soil. “That man needs to go back to his embassy,” he sneered. “Let him focus on housework, since he’s the wife to a man.”
Lopez’s comments came after Brewster accused police officers of threatening and assaulting several U.S. investors who were attending a conference organized by the local government.
“Imagine the horror I felt when I got a call from one of them, telling me they had been stopped by a uniformed police officer, that they had a weapon pointed at them and that they were forced to turn over their wallets,” Brewster said.
This isn’t the first time Cardinal Lopez has been nasty with Ambassador Brewster in public.
In June 2013, when Wally Brewster was named ambassador, Lopez called him a faggot in a news conference, and said, “I don’t agree in the least with that kind of preference (homosexuality).”
Santo Domingo auxiliary bishop Pablo Cedano also weighed in, adding the naming of the new U.S. ambassador “is far from our cultural reality” and “hopes” that Brewster doesn’t come to the country, because if he does, he “will suffer and have to leave.” Choosing a former gay activist as ambassador to the Dominican Republic “was a lack of sensitivity, of respect by the United States.”
One day in 2012, prominent television reporter, Ms. Nuria Piera, received a tip that many afternoons the papal nuncio drank beer at a waterfront restaurant and then went off with young boys. The restaurant was in an area of the national capital, Santo Domingo, known for male prostitutes.
Ms. Piera sent a video crew to keep watch. The crew shot some footage of Archbishop Wesolowski drinking alone and walking along the promenade. When he noticed their presence, he went over to their car and smacked his hand against it, asking why they were following him. After that incident, Ms. Piera said, he disappeared from the waterfront. “I suspected that there may have been a leak from our own office,” Ms. Piera said.
On June 24, 2013 Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, a Roman Catholic deacon and sometime sex partner for Archbishop Wesolowski, was arrested by police for solicitation of minors and taken to jail. He later told police at the time of his arrest he was “pimping” a youngster for Wesolowski, who was waiting in his car nearby.
The deacon said Wesolowski left the scene, and said nothing because he thought the church’s influence would get him out of jail.
But when no one came to bail him out–and the deacon understood he would stay in jail a long time before trial–he sent a letter to be hand delivered to Wesolowski’s office. The letter, dated July 2nd, may have expressed contrived or genuine remorse, but either way it ended Wesolowski’s diplomatic career.
“We have offended God” and the church, the letter said, by sexually abusing children and adolescents “for crumbs of money.” The deacon wrote that he had agreed to find child victims for the nuncio so that “your sexual appetite can be satiated,” but that he was now asking God for forgiveness.
The deacon sent copies of the same letter to Cardinal Lopez and also his bishop, Gregorio Nicanor Pena Rodriguez. The cardinal quietly carried the letter and other evidence to the Vatican, where he met directly with Pope Francis.
Neither the cardinal, nor other church officials, reported the allegations of abuse to the authorities.
On August 23, 2013 Archbishop Wesolowski was secretly recalled to Rome. Six days later, Cardinal Lopez called the papal nuncio “a great friend and promoter of peace.” Lopez told news media he didn’t know what prompted the call, and suggested it might have been the result of a personal conflict with Puerto Rico’s archbishop, Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves.
Interesting side story…Archbishop Gonzalez has been accused by Vatican emissaries of allegedly protecting pedophile priests, abusing his power, promoting Puerto Rican independence from the U.S., and supporting a law that would grant same-sex couples living together the rights of inheritance, hospital visits and health coverage. Wesolowski was among those pressuring him to step down as Puerto Rico’s archbishop and take a position elsewhere. The ultra conservative Life Site News has an interesting story on Archbishop Gonzalez’ political battles.
The attorney general for the Dominican Republic, Mr. Francisco Dominguez Brito, and the district attorney for Santo Domingo, Ms. Yeni Berenice Reynoso Gomez, both said they learned of the sexual abuse allegations against Archbishop Wesolowski from Ms. Piera’s television reports, which were broadcast in September 2013. The program included a 13-year-old boy who said he had been abused.
Ms. Reynoso said her investigators had identified several children aged 12-17, mainly from very poor neighborhoods, with whom the papal nuncio had sexual contact, but indicated there were likely more.
The 17-year-old had epilepsy, and the nuncio gave him medicine in exchange for sex acts, starting when the boy was 13. “This is the most terrible case that I have ever seen,” said the district attorney. “He was abusing kids who were living in extreme poverty, in exchange for pills for a boy’s illness.”
“He definitely seduced me with money,” 17-year-old Francis Aquino Aneury told The New York Times. He was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasing larger sums for sex acts. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money. Aquino told the Times reporter that Wesolowski would watch him masturbate, would touch him, or touch himself. Another report mentioned Wesolowski would film oral sex acts on his cell phone.
Ms. Reynoso felt strongly that the case should have been prosecuted in the Dominican Republic, not the Vatican. “These children who were abused, and their families, and the Dominican society, have a legitimate right to see Jozef Wesolowski judged by a jury–not as a diplomat, but for what he really is,” she said. “A child abuser.”
Soon after the television report and other local media coverage on allegations of sexual misconduct by Archbishop Wesolowski and Wojciech Gill, a fellow Polish priest and friend, Cardinal Lopez confirmed he had gone to the Vatican to address the matter, but left it to the Vatican to investigate.
Archbishop Wesolowski conveniently departed in late August before the news story broke in early September.
After the story broke in the Dominican Republic news media, and it was clear Archbishop Wesolowski would not be back, Cardinal Lopez began to voice support for the investigation of the former papal nuncio and other pedophile priests.
In a letter signed as archbishop of Santo Domingo and as president of the Dominican bishops conference, Cardinal Lopez called for a “purification of the Church and for the removal of those who unworthily exercise this ministry and do not deserve to be called priests.”
“In recent weeks,” the letter sent on, “the public has been shocked repeatedly by embarrassing behavior in different areas of the country by clergy members of the Catholic Church, who we expect and ought to behave differently,” stated Cardinal Lopez.
Without mentioning any specific names or cases, the cardinal prayed, “Jesus, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing and they are hurting the heart of the Church and faith of many people.”
The “root problem” of clergy abuse, Cardinal Lopez said, “is an undetermined number” of candidates preparing for priesthood who “do not have an authentic vocation” and who “during formation are able to feign something they are not, and if formation directors are not careful, they sneak into the clergy, and later the bishops pay the consequences for their excesses and turmoil.”
After his recall to the Vatican, Archbishop Wesolowski was given a few months to prepare for his defense. He was tried first by a canonical court, and on June 27, 2014 he was found guilty of sex abuse by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was laicized shortly following the decision.
On September 23, 2014, Vatican criminal proceedings against Wesolowski started. He was allowed to remain under house arrest because of medical reasons.
Vatican prosecutors accused Wesolowski of sexually abusing children in the Dominican Republic where he worked from 2008 to 2013 at the Vatican’s ambassador. They said he picked up poor boys on the waterfront, paid them for sex acts, and took pornographic photos of them. He was also accused of offending “Christian morality” by repeatedly logging into pornographic sites involving minors in the Dominican Republic and the Vatican following his recall.
Wesolowski was indicted in June 2015 and a trial date set for July 11, 2015.
On July 10th, Wesolowski collapsed at his residence and was admitted to an intensive care unit in an Italian hospital for an “unexpected illness.” The trial was postponed, and no new date was set for its resumption. He was treated for “a serious drop in blood pressure, due to the heat and tension, as well as his age.”
Jozef Wesolowski died at his residence on August 28, 2015. He was 67.
A statement released by the Holy See Press Office shared the news, stating the initial investigations done by Vatican authorities “indicate that he died of natural causes” in the early hours of the morning.
His body was found at about 5 AM by a priest who lived in the same building, which houses the Franciscans who hear confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as offices of the Vatican police force. Wesolowski was in front of a TV which was on.
During Wesolowski’s funeral in a Vatican administrative palazzo’s chapel, eight minutes of silence replaced a homily. Celebrating the Mass was a Polish prelate, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, who is Pope Francis’ chief alms-giver. He was returned to his native Poland for burial.
The results of the autopsy were released on December 14, 2015. The conclusion of the report, which was submitted to the Chancellor’s Office of the Vatican City State Court of the First Instance, confirmed what had already emerged from the post mortem examination: Msgr. Jozef Wesolowski died of heart failure.
Another convenient departure?
Since Msgr. Wesolowski was not brought to trial, there were no ugly details, names, dates, faces, encounters for the press to paw over. His story faded quietly with the end of the year.