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A Current Murder in the Vatican?

A Vatican trial for Pope Francis’ ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, age 67, was scheduled for July 11 but was halted due to the archbishop’s “illness.” Wesolowski was accused of soliciting sex for money from Santo Domingo’s poorest boys and possession of child pornography.

Had the trial taken place, testimony would have confirmed that the pope allowed Wesolowski to remain a free man for 14 months regardless of how many times the pope said he was taking “action” against prelates on the issue of sex abuse; and that, during this time, Wesolowski acquired more than 100,000 computer files of pornography with disturbing photos of children who were likely victims of human trafficking – an issue on which Pope Francis wants to be seen as a world leader. At a July 21 conference for mayors from around the world held in the Vatican, the pope told the group he hoped they would address “how climate change affects the trafficking of people.”

Wesolowski’s body was discovered on August 28 in his Vatican quarters. The next day, the Vatican announced that an autopsy was performed by “a commission of three [unnamed] experts, coordinated by Giovanni Arcudi, Professor of Forensic Medicine … From the first conclusions reached by the macroscopic examination, it is confirmed the natural cause of death was a cardiac event.” No mention was made where the postmortem was conducted.

A dossier accusing Wesolowski of sex abuse of minors was sent to Pope Francis “sometime in July” 2013 by Santo Domingo Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez. The pope found the information credible enough to dismiss Wesolowski on August 21 via confidential letter. The pope never reported Wesolowski to civil authorities. The allegations became public when a local TV program did an exposé on August 31, but the ambassador was already gone.

“We learned from the children that Wesolowski took pictures of them while they were masturbating. Oral sex was performed,” Nuria Piera, an investigative journalist in the Dominican Republic, said. “He abused that poverty and used that mechanism to approach children and take advantage of them for years,” according to Yeni Berenice Reynoso, National District prosecutor.

Wesolowski’s whereabouts remained unknown until Santo Domingo Auxiliary Bishop Víctor Masalles tweeted on June 24, 2014: “For me it was a surprise to see Wesolowski walking along the Via della Scrofa in Rome.”

Embarrassed, the Vatican announced on June 27 that Wesolowski had been laicized (defrocked) “in the past few days,” but he remained a free man. The press reported this as “the most tangible demonstration of what Pope Francis called his ‘zero tolerance’ for child sex abuse.”

On September 26, 2014, the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Serra reported that Wesolowski was arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography. “Some were downloaded from the internet and others the victims themselves were forced to take. The prelate stored part of this chamber of horrors on his own laptop. The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults. … Wesolowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.” (emphasis mine)

Even under house arrest in the Vatican, Wesolowski was still able to access child porn on the internet. A large component of human trafficking is the “use of force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. Pornography not only contributes to the demand for sex trafficking … but it also contributes to child exploitation, sexual violence, and lifelong porn addictions.”

On the eve of Wesolowski’s July 11, 2015, trial, the nuncio was taken to the hospital. His lawyer “didn’t know what ails his client. ‘I saw him two or three days ago, and, given his age and his state of mind, he was fine,’ said Antonello Blasi.”

Wesolowski left the hospital on July 17. The BBC reported on August 11 that Wesolowski was free to “walk around the Vatican, around its 40 hectares [~100 acres],” according to Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Holy See press office. Benedettini made no mention of any illness.

“Wesolowski’s sudden death has aroused doubts and suspicions in Dominican Republic and other countries.”

“Many believe that Wesolowski could be the repository of untold secrets, which could, perhaps, be harmful to many powerful characters.”

In their announcements about Wesolowski’s death and autopsy, the Vatican used the title “monsignore” which in Italian, French and Spanish is proper for bishops. He was still listed as an archbishop in the 2015 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican yearbook.


On May 4, 1998, around 9 p.m., a neighbor heard loud noises in the Vatican apartment of the captain-commander of the Swiss Guard, Alois Estermann. A member of the Swiss Guard responded to her alarm and found three bodies – Estermann, his wife and vice-corporal Cedric Tornay – with gunshot wounds.

“A few minutes after the shooting, [Vatican spokesman, Joaquin] Navarro-Valls was already on the scene.” He was soon joined by two officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State, three members from the Vatican police department, “forensic experts Pietro Fucci and Giovanni Arcudi, and the man who by happy coincidence would be appointed to head the inquiry into the triple deaths, Gianluigi Marrone. More than two hours later, the area was still awash with people.” (Yallop, The Power and the Glory p 466)

The bodies of the three victims were transported to the Vatican morgue. “It was imperative to prevent an autopsy taking place outside the Vatican … the three corpses were taken away without any of the precautions routinely used in criminal investigations.”

At midnight, Navarro-Valls announced to the press that he had solved the crime: Tornay had killed the other two then turned the handgun on himself in a “fit of madness.” The next day, Navarro-Valls said that autopsies showed Tornay shot himself in the mouth with his service pistol. He shot Estermann twice, killing him instantly, and shot Estermann’s wife once. The spokesman said the Vatican has a “moral certainty” about the reconstructed scenario, which was based in part on a letter Tornay sent to his mother and sister just two hours before he died.

“The case is suspicious … The autopsy was carried out by Vatican [personnel] Piero Fucci and Giovanni Arcudi.”

“The two forensic pathologists working for the Holy See, Pietro Fucci and Giovanni Arcudi, carried out the autopsy a few hours after the crime, and in secret.” The gathering of evidence and the ballistic analyses were carried out by Raoul Bonarelli, under their sole supervision.” “The Vatican autopsy reconstructed the double murder and suicide … Tornay shot himself in the mouth. As for the position of the bodies, Navarro explained … the two men were prone on the floor.” The results “are consistent with the hypothesis which the Vatican advanced immediately after the slayings were discovered: that Tornay was responsible for all three deaths.”

Tornay’s mother, Muguette Baudat, refused to believe her son was a murderer and had another autopsy done by Thomas Krompecher, professor at the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Forensic Pathology. Luc Brossollet, one of Baudat’s lawyers, “explained that the regulation pistol which the Swiss Guard is supposed to have used to kill himself was a 9.42 mm Sigg, whereas the autopsy carried out on the vice-corporal’s body at his family’s request describes the bullet’s exit hole as corresponding to a 7 mm calibre.

Brossollet believes the 23-year-old Tornay was innocent and that the crime scene was set up to look like a double murder and suicide.
“He was shot by someone and by a person who also killed Estermann and his wife,” Brossollet told swissinfo. “We are sure that Cédric didn’t die in the position that the Vatican authorities said he did. They say that he was kneeling and his head fell a little bit forwards. We know from the Swiss autopsy that when he died, Cedric’s head fell behind,” explained Brossollet. …
When contacted by swissinfo, the pathologist, Professor Thomas Krompecher, of the Lausanne University forensic medicine institute, declined to comment on the second autopsy, saying that he was unauthorized to do so. …
The position of Tornay’s head is one of the factors that Brossollet says proves that Tornay was murdered.
The lawyer also says that a suicide letter allegedly written by Tornay to his mother was false, based on tests on handwriting samples and details in the letter.

That is not all: the autopsy reveals a fracture to a cranium bone, the petrosal bone, which was not on the bullet’s path, as well as the presence of blood and mucus inside the lungs, a substance which the body secretes when respiration is difficult. Cedric Tornay had therefore been struck on the head before being killed by a shot fired from a weapon with a calibre of 7 mm forced into his mouth, where it can be seen that the incisors have been broken by the firearm’s front sight. On the other hand, no trace could be found of the brain tumour which, according to the Vatican inquiry, was the cause of the Swiss Guard’s “behavioural disorders.”

“The Swiss autopsy suggests that everything was arranged so that it looked as if he had committed the crime. Tornay had a violent blow to his head. This impact must have caused a loss of consciousness. Only after this blow, he is said to have shot himself, which is absolutely impossible.”

Seven years later, Giovanni Arcudi, “confirmed that he had been summoned to the Vatican after [Pope John Paul II’s] death to oversee the body’s temporary preservation – but said he had been “sworn to secrecy about the details.”


Some journalists and authors remain unconvinced by Baudat’s evidence that her son is innocent because it has never been tested in court. But most agree that the Vatican’s improper investigation is the cause of skepticism.

After two and half years of constant media assertions that Pope Francis has “cleaned up” the Vatican, none will note that Wesolowski’s autopsy was coordinated by the same man who performed the disputed autopsy on two murdered Swiss Guards.

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for detailing the timeline of Wesolowski’s last 3 years, that is, after being reported by the Dominican Republic authorities. I hope the European press will pursue more investigation into his death. That he could have revealed the names of powerful people involved in human trafficking makes sense as a motive for suicide or murder.

    • I also hope those who are able to will investigate who else belongs to that “international network.”

      • There would be more than a few who wouldn’t appreciate this little “expose’.
        I’m glad I was directed to it.

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