Catholics

Vatican diplomat implicated in child porn case served in Hong Kong

Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella has been recalled to the Vatican from his most recent posting in the United States, where he has diplomatic immunity

A Catholic Church official recalled to the Vatican because US investigators suspected him of crimes involving child pornography is a diplomat who has served the church in positions around the globe, including Hong Kong.

The diplomat in question is Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella. The church and US State Department and Justice Department officials refused to name the suspect on the record, but his identity was reported by the Italian news agency ANSA, then confirmed by The New York Times and The Guardian.

Capella, 50, has had a wide-ranging career in the church that brought him to the United States only this past year. Born in the town of Carpi in Northern Italy, he was ordained as a priest in 1993, pursued a degree in canon law and then entered the Vatican’s corps of diplomats in 2004, according to Associated Press. In that role, he was posted in India and then Hong Kong before another stint at the Vatican.

In 2008, according to a document from the Archdiocese of Milan, Pope Benedict XVI conferred the rank of “Chaplain of His Holiness” on Capella – a recognition of service to the church that bestowed on him the title of Monsignor.

In August, the State Department contacted the Vatican to say that US officials had turned up evidence implicating Capella in a child pornography case. At the Vatican embassy in Washington, Capella was one of four staff members with diplomatic immunity, protecting him from prosecution in America. The embassy on Massachusetts Avenue NW, near the US Vice-President’s residence, also employs about a dozen locally hired staff members, according to people familiar with the embassy’s operations.

The church transferred Capella back to the Vatican and said that it is investigating the case. A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to remark more frankly about the case, said that the United States had asked the Vatican to waive Capella’s immunity so that he could be prosecuted here. The Vatican refused.

In Vatican City, Capella could face consequences in two disciplinary systems: Under church law, he could be defrocked as a priest, and under civil law in the Holy See, which is also an independent nation, he could face criminal penalties. The city state’s criminal law says people convicted of possessing child pornography face two years in prison and US$12,000 in fines, and those convicted of producing or distributing the images face steeper penalties.

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