Is the Vatican letter to the church in Ireland a smoking gun, or not? How shall we interpret the news from yesterday from AP that the Vatican wrote a letter to the church in Ireland?
Is Vatican letter on abuse a 'smoking gun'?
From the National Catholic Reporter
A January 1997 letter from the papal ambassador to Ireland, communicating the opinion of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy about a set of proposed Irish policies on priestly sexual abuse, confirms that in the late 1990s the Vatican was ambivalent about requirements that bishops be required to report abuse to police and civil prosecutors.
In light of recent Vatican pledges of transparency, the letter is certainly a public relations embarrassment. As a “smoking gun” proving a Vatican-orchestrated cover-up, however, the letter may fall short.
Signed by then-nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Luciano Storero, the letter was revealed Monday night by Irish broadcaster RTE, just ahead of a Vatican-sponsored Apostolic Visitation of the Irish church. In it, Storero, who died in 2000, writes that the Congregation for the Clergy had concluded that a “mandatory reporting” policy, proposed by a draft 1996 set of policies considered by the Irish bishops, “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.”
That line has fueled charges that the Vatican effectively tied the hands of bishops, preventing them from turning over abuse cases to civil authorities.
Vatican is always right -- or wrong -- on sex abuse
By Cathy Lynn Grossman in USA Today
In matters of dealing with the sexual abuse crisis, the Vatican is always right -- or always wrong.
Either Cardinals in Rome worked within the walls of faith and canon law to discipline abusive priests -- or the Vatican hid pedophiles and reinforced the idea that their rights superseded those of victims.
Nearly 14 years before the corrosive extent of abuse of thousands of children in Irish Catholic institutions came to light, there was a Vatican letter to the Irish bishops telling them, in Vatican-canonical-speak to do... what?
Victims of abuse and Vatican critics, say the letter is a smoking gun, that it proves the Church schooled bishops not to report abuse to the police, leaving the vile practice inside the confines of canonical legalities.
The Vatican is pushing back on the AP's interpretation of the 1997 letter the AP reports; the AP does some push back of its own:
It by no means instructed bishops to disregard civil reporting requirements about abuse, added the Vatican's U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, who said the letter had been "deeply misunderstood" by the media.
At the time, there were no such reporting requirements in Ireland. In fact, the Irish bishops were ahead of Irish lawmakers in pledging cooperation with law enforcement as dioceses were hit with the first wave of lawsuits by victims of abusive priests.
Yet as a result of the 1997 letter, most Irish dioceses outside Dublin never implemented the 1996 commitment to report all suspected abuse cases to police, according to the conclusions of the Dublin Archdiocese investigation published in 2009.
"This in fact never took place because of the response of Rome," said the Dublin Archdiocese commission in its report.