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Wikileaks Shows Vatican Pressured Irish Government For Immunity In Child Abuse Probe

12/11/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Cables released by Wikileaks have shown what most people pretty much already knew or suspected, which is that the Vatican put intense pressure on the Irish government in order to ensure the immunity of its priests during the probe into decades of sex abuse of minors by clergy. The leaks do little to actually show what was, by and large, common knowledge, but does serve to show the delicacy of the negotiations.

Indeed, even the Daily Mail points out “that the Holy See used its diplomatic immunity status as a tiny-city state to try to thwart Ireland’s government-led probe has long been known. But the WikiLeaks cables, published by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on Saturday, contain delicate, behind-the-scenes diplomatic assessments of the highly charged situation.”

So far, the Vatican is not commenting on the content of the cables, but has attacked the leaks as a matter of “extreme seriousness.” The US ambassador to the Vatican has also condemned the leaks.

According to one of the leaked cables, Noel Fahey, the Irish Ambassador, told US diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes that the scandal was tricky to manage and Noyes said that “The Vatican believes the Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations.”

Noyes later cites a Vatican official who wrote that the inquiry commission’s requests “offended many in the Vatican”, and they were viewed as “an affront to Vatican sovereignty.” She also wrote that “adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by publicly calling on the government to demand that the Vatican reply.” There are indications that the Irish government had some internal resistance to the probe due to the delicate nature of relations with the Vatican, but felt compelled to cooperate with the investigation due to the just how deeply enmeshed the Vatican was in Irish education.

Noyes wrote in one cable, citing Fahey’s deputy Helena Keleher, “in the end, the Irish government decided not to press the Vatican reply.”

Trying to limit the damage from the cables, the Vatican released in a statement about the leaks that the cables “reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself,” and that the report;s “reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence.”

The cables also go into the decision by the Vatican to poach on Anglican turf. One of the cables reports that Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican had warned that the pope’s invitation to disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic church had damaged relations between the two churches and had risked possible violent backlash against British Catholics. A November 2009 US Embassy file quotes Britsh envoy Francis Campbell who said “Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the pope’s decision.”

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