ROME (CNS) — The recall of a Vatican diplomat suspected by U.S. authorities of having a connection with child pornography reflects normal international protocol, but the suspect must be put on trial and receive punishment if found guilty, said a key organizer of a world congress on child protection.
“Due process has to be followed. If there is a case and if the person is found guilty, then he or she needs to be punished, whoever that is,” said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, which is hosting a world congress on protecting minors from online abuse, violence and exploitation.
The Oct. 3-6 congress in Rome came on the heels of the recall of Italian Msgr. Carlo Capella from the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.
The Vatican said it opened an investigation, which involved international collaboration. Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 for the monsignor’s arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.
Panelists introducing the congress during a news conference Oct. 2 said its goals were to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to protect children from abuse in a “digital era.”
The panel was asked by Catholic News Service what the Vatican should do to show itself as a leader in child protection, particularly when it comes to possible crimes that involve multiple jurisdictions and when it reportedly invoked the official’s diplomatic immunity in order to conduct its own investigation.
Father Zollner said, “I am pretty well convinced that this follows the normal way of diplomatic and interstate relationships” and that the allegations were being handled similarly to the way the United States or other nations would handle them in similar circumstances.
However, he added, justice must be served and anybody “who commits a crime needs to be punished. Period.”