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Vatican Diplomat Arrested Over Child Pornography

The Vatican arrested one of its own diplomats Saturday on suspicion of violating laws against child pornography, setting the stage for the first trial for that crime in Vatican City.

The Vatican said in a statement that its police force, known as the gendarmerie, had arrested Italian Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella under a Vatican law setting penalties for anyone who “distributes, disseminates, transmits, imports, exports, offers or sells child pornography.”

The former diplomat, who served most recently at the Holy See’s embassy in Washington, was being held in a cell in the gendarmerie’s barracks, the statement said.

He had been under house arrest in the Vatican, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Attempts to reach Msgr. Capella on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Last September, the Vatican announced that it had recalled a then-unnamed diplomat from Washington after the U.S. State Department notified it about his “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.”

The Vatican said at the time its prosecutor was investigating and pursuing “international collaboration” to obtain evidence in the case.

At the time, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Holy See to be “forthcoming with more details” and called for an “immediate, thorough, and transparent investigation … in cooperation with law enforcement.”

Later that month, police in Windsor, Ontario, said they had issued a nationwide warrant for Msgr. Capella for allegedly uploading child pornography to a social network in Canada in 2016.

Saturday’s announcement was the first Vatican statement on the subject since September.

The Vatican declined to comment on the timing of a possible indictment or trial for Msgr. Capella.

The 2013 law under which he was arrested provides for “one to five years imprisonment and a fine from €2,500 to €50,000 [$3,000 to $61,000].”

However, the Vatican statement specifically cited a section of the law stipulating that the “penalty is increased if a considerable quantity of pornographic material is involved.”

Msgr. Capella’s trial would be the first criminal trial for child pornography in Vatican City.

In 2015, Jozef Wesolowski, a former archbishop and the Holy See’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, died of a heart attack while awaiting his Vatican trial for sexual abuse of minors and possession of child pornography.

The arrest of Msgr. Capella comes amid heavy criticism of Pope Francis ’ record on sex abuse, following the pope’s comments in January dismissing accusations that a Chilean bishop had failed to report assaults by another priest.

The pope’s words drew an extraordinary rebuke from his top adviser on sex abuse, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who said they had caused “great pain” to sex abuse victims by suggesting they wouldn’t be believed without proof.

The pope then appointed the Vatican’s former prosecutor for sex abuse to interview witnesses and examine possible new evidence in the case.

No results of that investigation have been announced.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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