Updated September 25 at 1:30 p.m. EST
The Holy See announced on Friday that a priest who is part of its diplomatic corps has been recalled to Rome following allegations that he violated child-pornography laws. The official had been accredited to serve in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Department of State notified Catholic Church leaders about the alleged crime through diplomatic channels. The Vatican has opened an investigation and is keeping the name of the accused priest confidential. The AP reported that the U.S. government requested that the official’s diplomatic immunity be lifted. The request was denied.
These allegations have come at a turbulent time for the Vatican on issues of sex abuse. Earlier this summer, Cardinal George Pell was charged with multiple sex crimes by the Australian police, and returned to his home country “to clear his name,” according to a statement from the archdiocese of Sydney. Pell has been in charge of the Vatican’s treasury since 2014, and was specifically brought in to implement reforms.
Pope Francis has faced intense criticism for his handling of child sex-abuse issues. Although he convened a special body called the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to review Church policies on sex-abuse allegations, two high-profile members have left. One of them, Marie Collins, is herself a survivor of abuse. She cited a “lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement, and cultural resistance” as her reasons for quitting, and she criticized members of the Curia, who govern the Vatican, for blocking reform efforts. Another member—Peter Saunders, who is also a survivor of abuse—said he was disappointed that Pope Francis had not visited the commission. He has been placed on indefinite leave from the commission.