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Vatican denies Irish bishops were instructed to withhold abuse evidence

January 19, 2011

The Vatican has denied that Irish bishops were told not to report abuse accusations to law-enforcement officials.

A previously secret 1997 letter that was cited in an Irish television program as evidence of such a policy was “deeply misunderstood,” the Vatican said.

The RTE television network, in a January 17 broadcast, had unearthed the letter from the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, then the apostolic nuncio in Ireland, cautioning that a set of policies proposed by the Irish bishops’ conference might violate the canonical rights of accused priests. The archbishop said in particular that a proposal for mandatory reporting of abuse complaints “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.” The RTE broadcast cited this letter as evidence that the Vatican had set a policy against reporting abuse to police.

Vatican officials responded that the true purpose of Archbishop Storero’s letter was to ensure that the Irish bishops would respect the rights of accused priests. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, pointed out that guilty priests might escape punishment on technical grounds if their bishops did not follow proper canonical procedure in disciplinary cases against them.

Moreover, Vatican officials said, the proposed policy of the Irish bishops did not offer sufficient protection for priests who might be wrongfully accused.

Father Lombardi called attention to the fact that the 1997 letter -- which cited the opinions of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who was then prefect of the Congregation for Clergy—was written before 2001, when the Vatican established clear new policies for responding to sex-abuse complaints, routing all such cases through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


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  • Posted by: umpynelson3459 - Jan. 19, 2011 5:48 PM ET USA

    Why would the Television station want to hear what the Vatican has to say about it. Their story is so much more damning even if it isn't true. Anything that will put the Catholic Church down is what counts to them. We live in bad times.