The Vatican has arrested Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, the Italian priest who served as the diplomat in the Vatican’s embassy in Washington D.C., on charges of possessing and sharing child pornography.
Capella is being held in a cell in the Vatican’s police force, the Corps of the Gendarmerie. The Italian monsignor was ordered back to the Vatican from Washington in the summer of 2017 after U.S. officials told the Holy See the priest was being investigated for possible violations of child pornography laws.
The following month, police in Canada issued a arrest warrant for Capella. It was alleged that while at a parish there in December of 2016, Capella had possessed and distributed child pornography.
What you need to know about the priest, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella:
1. Capella, Who Had Served in the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, Faces up to 5 Years in Prison
According to the very brief statement issued by the Vatican and tweeted by Italian journalists, the arrest warrant for Capella says the priest was taken into custody by the Vatican’s police force under Vatican criminal laws enacted in 2013. The “criminal norms” or laws call for up to five years in prison and tens of thousands in Euro dollars-worth of fines for priests who are convicted of possessing and/or distributing child pornography.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Capella could face even stiffer penalties “if a considerable quantity of pornographic material is involved.”
The Vatican News reported, “…at the request of the Vatican Promoter of Justice, the investigating Magistrate of the Vatican City State Tribunal, an arrest warrant was issued for Msgr Carlo Alberto Capella.”
Capella’s “arrest comes at the end of an investigation on the part of the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice. The investigation in the Vatican was opened in the fall of 2017 after Canadian police accused Msgr Capella of possession and distribution of child pornography allegedly downloaded while he was in Canada. At the time, the accused was a functionary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.,” it was reported.
2. U.S. & Canadian Authorities Were Investigating Capella in Child Porn Case
The Washington Post reported that during the late summer of 2017, the State Department told the Vatican law enforcement had uncovered “evidence implicating Capella in a child pornography case.”
The Post reported that Capella returned to the Vatican, who said it would investigate the matter. A source within the State Department told the Washington Post that American officials had “asked the Vatican to waive Capella’s immunity so that he could be prosecuted here. The Vatican refused.”
And Canadian officials alleged that during Christmas of 2016, Capella downloaded child pornography from a church parish computer. The Wall Street Journal reported on the Canadian arrest warrant: “Police in Windsor, Ontario said they have issued a nationwide warrant for the diplomat, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, 50, after receiving information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in February.”
The Church Militant called out the Church last October at the time of the Vatican-sponsored conference of bishops on child pornography: “Critics are noting Rome’s apparent double standard in addressing child abuse in the wake of last week’s Vatican-sponsored, three-day conference on child pornography, while seemingly protecting a priest who’s wanted for allegedly trafficking in child porn,” the online news magazine said.
At issue was the Church’s protection of Capella from prosecution because he had diplomatic immunity.
3. While in the Vatican ‘Embassy’ in Washington D.C., Capella Had Diplomatic Immunity
An Apostolic Nunciature, akin to an embassy, is a top-level diplomatic mission of the Holy See, the Catholic Church, but cannot do what embassies generally do like issue visas or maintain a consulate. Capella was assigned to Washington after serving in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps in Asia and at the Vatican.
While at the Vatican Embassy close to the residence of Vice President Mike Pence, the priest enjoyed diplomatic immunity, which shielded him from being arrested charged or prosecuted in the U.S.
The Associated Press reported in October of 2017 that Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wanted the Church to be “forthcoming with more details” and transparent as the Catholic Church continues to “struggles with credibility problems” in light of continual priest sex scandals.
4. The Vatican’s Police Force is Called the Corps of the Gendarmerie & is Supported by the Swiss Guard
The Gendarmerie Corps is the Vatican city-state police force, with 130 members, it serves the Holy See. Run by Inspector General Domenico Giani, the barracks is next to the Swiss Guards, the pope’s army.
Founded in 1816, the Corps of the Gendarmerie, has in modern times become a regular civil police force in the city-state of less than 1,000 residents. The Gendarmerie serve with the colorful and famous Swiss Guards. The Gendarmerie also serve as the Pope’s security when he travels.
5. Capella Was Ordained in 1993 & Was Bestowed the Honorarium of Monsignor in 2008 by Then-Pope Benedict XVI
The AP reported Capella was a “high-ranking” Holy See diplomatic corp member. Capella served, the AP noted, “on the Italy desk in the Vatican’s secretariat of state and was part of the official delegation that negotiated a tax treaty with Italy before being posted to the U.S. embassy last year.”
The Washington Post reported that Capella was “conferred the rank of ‘Chaplain of His Holiness'” in 2008 which “bestowed on him the title of Monsignor.”
Born in Capri, Capella was ordained in 1993, studied canon law, began a career as a Vatican diplomat serving in Asia, and the Vatican, before being posted in the Holy See’s Apostolic Nunciature or embassy in Washington in 2016.