Compact Edition Saturday December 11, 2010.
Coalition “caved in” to Vatican on abuse probe
John Cooney and Kevin Keane
The Government capitulated to Vatican demands that its officials were immune from testifying to the Murphy Commission into clerical abuse scandals in Dublin, according to leaked cables from the American Embassy to the Holy See.
The documents, released by Wikileaks reveal the secret diplomatic panic in the Government after public outrage exploded here late last year after Judge Yvonne Murphy disclosed the Vatican’s refusal to answer letters from her commission.
The Vatican refused to allow its officials to testify, Requests for information from the commission “offended many in the Vatican“ who felt that the Government here had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations,” a cable says.
A key intermediary in managing unprecedented tensions between Rome and the Government here was the Irish Ambassador to Rome, Noel Fahey, and the publication a year on of what he privately told American colleagues will reignite anger at how this information was withheld from the Oireachtas by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin.
The Department of Foreign Affairs was last night scrambling to prepare a reaction to the new revelations.
In the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Murphy Report in November 2009 Opposition politicians and the media were incensed at how the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Papal Nuncio to Ireland had ignored its official requests for information on the extent of the Vatican’s knowledge about the huge scale of paedophile abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
In the leaked cable titled "Sex abuse scandal strains Irish-Vatican relations, shakes up Irish church, and poses challenges for the Holy See" the American Embassy highlights how the Government came under pressure from the Opposition to demand a reply from the Vatican.
The biggest crisis ever in Vatican-Irish relations caused the Pope’s Prime Minister, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to write to the Irish embassy, ordering that any requests related to the investigation must come through diplomatic channels.
A crucial conversation between Noel Fahey, the Irish ambassador to the Holy See, with the US diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes reports him saying that that the Irish clergy sex abuse scandal was the most difficult crisis he had ever managed.
Ambassador Fahey reportedly told the Americans that the Government here wanted "to be seen as co-operating with the investigation", but politicians were reluctant to press Vatican officials to answer the investigators' queries.
According to Mr Fahey's deputy, Helena Keleher, the Government acceded to Vatican pressure and granted them immunity from testifying.
Dublin ~ Monday, December 13, 2010
Days of genuflection
THE INSTITUTIONAL face of the Catholic Church, as represented by the Vatican, has been left in a dark place of its own creation because of its hopelessly inadequate response to clerical child abuse. And the more we learn about its behaviour, the more it appears to dig itself into a deeper mess, increasingly obscuring the values it might be expected to espouse.
The latest disclosures – via US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks – suggest that requests for information from the Murphy Commission, which was investigating the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004, “offended many in the Vatican” who felt that the Irish Government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the [Commission] investigations”.
The views, attributed to the Vatican by US diplomats, chime with much of what we know about how the Church, as an institution, deals with such matters and did so in this case. And it is not simply an issue of diplomatic etiquette – the Vatican, in seeking to assert its sovereignty, is adhering to a calculated and consistent defence aimed at protecting the Church and its assets from litigation arising from clerical child abuse in dioceses around the world.
There is no mistaking the sense that the institutional Church and its bureaucracy are engaged in a long game: that the voices of victims who speak with such pain and eloquence of their awful experiences cannot be sustained indefinitely; and that an organisation that has been in existence for some two millennia can simply close ranks and wait. But if this is the case, to what end? What of the tenets of Christianity? What of protecting the weak? For these are the values that matter: not the pomp or the splendour, not the paraphernalia and the bishops’ palaces. Nor the men who live in them, however well-intentioned some of them may be.
The WikiLeaks cable records an Irish diplomat as saying the Irish Government acceded to Vatican pressure and granted it immunity from testifying. That accords with the position taken by the Taoiseach when, in the aftermath of the Murphy report, he defended the Vatican and said that as the Murphy commission was a body set up by government, all communications to the Vatican state should have been routed through diplomatic channels. Given the commission’s horrific conclusions, this response was spectacularly inadequate: the Vatican is at liberty to dig holes for itself but the State must not follow. The days of genuflection are over.