Vatican urges prudence in assessing WikiLeaks documents

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rome, Dec 14 (IANS/AKI) The Vatican has described as “a matter of extreme seriousness” the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables alleging that it refused to assist an Irish inquiry into clerical sex abuse.

In a statement dated Saturday but issued Monday, the Holy See said the documents must be “evaluated carefully and with great prudence”.

“Without venturing to evaluate the extreme seriousness of publishing such a large amount of secret and confidential material, and its possible consequences…these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them,” the Vatican statement said.

“Their reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind.”

Ireland’s 2009 Murphy Commission into sexual and physical abuse by clergy “offended many in the Vatican” who felt that the Irish government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations”, a cable says.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (equivalent to a prime minister) wrote to the Irish embassy ordering that any requests related to the investigation must come through diplomatic channels. He is dismissed as a ‘yes man’ in the cables.

The cables quote the Irish ambassador to the Holy See Noel Fahey’s deputy, Helena Keleher, as saying the government acceded to Vatican pressure and granted Vatican officials immunity from testifying to the commission.

Following intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy, the Vatican changed tactics and Dec 11, 2009 the ambassador stated that Pope Benedict XVI had held a meeting with senior Irish clerics.

Irish cardinal Sean Brady and the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, went to Rome and met the pope, flanked by Bertone and four other cardinals.

At the end of the meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying the pope shared the “outrage, betrayal, and shame” of Irish Catholics, that he was praying for the victims, and that the church would take steps to prevent recurrences.

In March, Benedict issued a landmark pastoral letter to Irish bishops, which sharply criticised them for their “grave errors of judgement” in handling the sex abuse crisis involving hundreds of victims over several decades.

“Grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness,” wrote the pontiff.

The Murphy commission was able to substantiate many of the victims’ claims and concluded that some bishops had tried to cover up abuse, putting the interests of the Catholic church ahead of those of the victims.


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