WikiLeaks: Sex abuse scandal left rift in Vatican-Ireland relations
By Tim Lister, CNN
(CNN) -- Relations between the Vatican and Ireland deteriorated sharply as the Holy See appeared to ignore a commission looking into complaints of physical and sexual abuse of children by Irish priests, according to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
One cable from earlier this year says the Vatican was angered by the way the Murphy Commission -- which was looking into the how complaints of abuse had been handled by the Church and Irish government -- sidestepped normal diplomatic channels.
The commission had written directly to the Vatican to seek information and requested a meeting with the Vatican's representative in Ireland. The Vatican envoy did not respond, according to the cable.
The cable was one of several published Friday by the Guardian newspaper in London.
The Murphy Commission was appointed after another inquiry issued a report in May 2009 detailing horrific abuses, including 325 alleged cases of abuse by priests, and concluding that the problem was endemic.
"The Vatican believes the Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations," the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, wrote in February 2010.
"Adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by calling publicly on the government to demand that the Vatican reply."
But the cable added: "Much of the Irish public views the Vatican protests as pettily procedural and failing to confront the real issue of horrific abuse and cover-up by Church officials."
"Resentment toward the Church in Rome remains very high, particularly because of the institutionalized cover-up of abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy."
But U.S. diplomats credit the Vatican with responding to the unfolding crisis in Ireland "with uncharacteristic speed."
"The Vatican's relatively swift response to this crisis showed it learned key lessons from the U.S. sex abuse scandals in 2002 but still left some Catholics -- in Ireland and beyond -- feeling disaffected," the U.S. charge d'affaires wrote.
Victims' associations were complaining at the time that Pope Benedict XVI had not issued an apology for the abuses and had not ordered the removal of the remaining bishop accused of the cover-up, even though he said he shared the "outrage, betrayal, and shame" of Irish Catholics.
The following month the pope did offer an apology to the victims. "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured," he said.
Looking to the longer term, the U.S. diplomat wrote that the prestige and power of the Irish Catholic Church had been falling ever since its peak with the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II. The abuse scandals had come amid increasing secularization of society and might further reduce the influence of the Catholic Church, she wrote.
"Our contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expect the crisis in the Irish Catholic Church to be protracted over several years, as only allegations from the Dublin Archdiocese have been investigated to date," the cable says.
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The Irish Times - December 13, 2010
Minister dismisses abuse cable 'sideshow'
by HARRY McGEE and PATSY McGARRY
THE WIKILEAKS disclosure that the Government did not press the Vatican to co-operate with the inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of child abuse was yesterday dismissed as a “sideshow” by the relevant Minister.
There has also been strong reaction to the disclosure from victims of clerical sexual abuse. Fianna Fáil had been too close to the Catholic Church through the recent years of clerical child sex abuse revelations and this had inhibited it from doing what should have been done, Dublin abuse victim Andrew Madden said last night.
He was commenting after weekend WikiLeaks disclosures that requests to the Vatican for information from the Murphy commission “offended many” there who felt the Irish Government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the (commission) investigations”.
US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks also maintained the Irish Government acceded to Vatican pressure on the matter.
Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews said the fact the contents of a cable from the US embassy in the Holy See was published did not mean it was true, or showed in any way the Government did not want to co-operate with the Murphy commission’s investigation into how the Archdiocese of Dublin handled complaints of abuse made against its clergy.
Mr Andrews said the contents of the cable, as published, were a sideshow. He said it focused completely on how the information from the Vatican was to be elicited.
He said the important thing was that the information came to light, not how that occurred. “To me it was a complete sideshow, whether came through the Irish Government or though the [Murphy] commission,” he told RTÉ’s This Week.
“The issue was, can we get the Vatican co-operating with the inquiry? As you know, Micheál Martin brought the papal nuncio into his office in November last year and told him that it was not acceptable that they were not providing the information.”
He said the Vatican has subsequently agreed to set up an inquiry and said it will publish a report.
Mr Madden said all statutory inquiries into clerical child sex abuse set up by Fianna Fáil-led governments had been in response to media reports and pressure from victims such as himself, rather than resulting from any initiative by Fianna Fáil, he said.
“Fianna Fáil has been in office for 99 per cent of the revelations and could have set up inquiries as far back in 1998, after Brendan Smyth and after it emerged that Ivan Payne had abused other children after me, but it didn’t do so. The Catholic vote was more important,” he said. As an example, he noted the Murphy commission came into being after the Prime Time programme Cardinal Secrets in October 2002, because it was “expedient to do so”, he said.
Mr Madden called on Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin to publish the letter by the Irish Ambassador to the Holy See, Noel Fahey, sent in reply to correspondence from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal had advised that any requests related to the Murphy investigation should come through diplomatic channels. Mr Madden said there was nothing new in the WikiLeaks revelations, “just a reminder of attitudes at the heart of the Catholic Church”.
Maeve Lewis of the One in Four group thought it “shameful” the Vatican “should hide behind diplomatic protocol” in the context. She found the Government’s approach to the matter disappointing.
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said it was heartbreaking for victims to be reminded of the church’s “betrayal”.
The centre offers a helpline at 1800 778888.
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