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Senior US bishops quit after ignoring child sexual abuse

by Our Foreign Desk

TWO senior US Catholic bishops quit yesterday after failing to stop child abuse and a former church envoy to the Dominican Republic was charged with paedophilia.

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignations of archbishop John Nienstedt and auxiliary bishop Lee Anthony Piche of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.

Local prosecutors had charged the archdiocese itself with having “turned a blind eye” to repeated reports of inappropriate behaviour by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.

Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St Paul, is serving a five-year sentence and faces prosecution for offenses involving a third boy in Wisconsin.

Prosecutors said that church leaders had failed to respond to “numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct” by Mr Wehmeyer from the time he entered a seminary until he was removed from the priesthood this year.

Canon law allows the two bishops to resign before retirement age if illness or some other “grave” reason makes them unfit for office.

The resignations of Mr Nienstedt and Mr Piche came just days after the Pope approved the creation of a new Vatican tribunal to hear cases of bishops who had ignored abuse by priests.

In April, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of US bishop Robert Finn, who had been convicted in a US court of failing to report a suspected child abuser.

The church also announced yesterday that former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic Jozef Wesolowski had been charged with abusing young boys and possessing child pornography.

Mr Wesolowski was recalled by the Holy See in 2013 after rumours surfaced in Santo Domingo that he paid shoeshine boys to masturbate.

He has since been defrocked and placed under a form of house arrest inside Vatican City pending a decision by the Vatican criminal court on whether to charge him.

Ordained both as a priest and a bishop by late pope John Paul II, Mr Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to have been charged with sex offences.

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