Vatican Told Irish Bishops Not to Report Abuse
2011 01 28

From: cbsnews.com



"Mandatory" Reporting of Child Sex Abuse Claims Conflicted with Canon Law, Archbishop Said

A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure that victims groups described as "the smoking gun" needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of cover-up.

The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland's first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that the church in Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church's right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.

Signed by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II's diplomat to Ireland, the letter instructs Irish bishops that their new policy of making the reporting of suspected crimes mandatory "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature."

Storero wrote that canon law — which required abuse allegations and punishments to be handled within the church — "must be meticulously followed." He warned that any bishops who tried to impose punishments outside the confines of canon law would face the "highly embarrassing" position of having their actions overturned on appeal in Rome.

Catholic officials in Ireland and the Vatican declined AP requests to comment on the letter, which RTE said it received from an Irish bishop.

Child-abuse activists in Ireland said the 1997 letter should demonstrate, once and for all, that the protection of pedophile priests from criminal investigation was not only sanctioned by Vatican leaders but ordered by them.

"The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

Joelle Casteix, a director of U.S. advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, described the letter as "the smoking gun we've been looking for."

Casteix said it was certain to be cited by victims' lawyers seeking to pin responsibility directly on the Vatican rather than local dioceses. She said investigators long have sought such a document showing Vatican pressure on a group of bishops "thwarting any kind of justice for victims."

"We now have evidence that the Vatican deliberately intervened to order bishops not to turn pedophile priests over to law enforcement," she said. "And for civil lawsuits, this letter shows what victims have been saying for dozens and dozens of years: What happened to them involved a concerted cover-up that went all the way to the top."

To this day, the Vatican has not endorsed any of the Irish church's three major policy documents since 1996 on safeguarding children from clerical abuse. Irish taxpayers, rather than the church, have paid most of the euro1.5 billion ($2 billion) to more than 14,000 abuse claimants dating back to the 1940s.

In his 2010 pastoral letter to Ireland's Catholics condemning pedophiles in the ranks, Pope Benedict XVI faulted bishops for failing to follow canon law and offered no explicit endorsement of Irish child-protection efforts by the Irish church or state. Benedict was widely criticized in Ireland for failing to admit any Vatican role in covering up the truth.

O'Gorman — who was raped repeatedly by an Irish priest in the 1980s when he was an altar boy and was among the first victims to speak out in the mid-1990s — said evidence is mounting that some Irish bishops continued to follow the 1997 Vatican instructions and withheld reports of crimes against children as recently as 2008.

Two state-commissioned reports published in 2009 — into the Dublin Archdiocese and workhouse-style Catholic institutions for children — unveiled decades of cover-ups of abuse involving tens of thousands of Irish children since the 1930s.

A third major state-ordered investigation into Catholic abuse cover-ups, concerning the southwest Irish diocese of Cloyne, is expected to be published within the next few months documenting the concealment of crimes as recently as 2008.

Irish church leaders didn't begin telling police about suspected pedophile priests until the mid-1990s after the first major scandal

of a priest, Brendan Smyth, who had raped dozens of children while the church transferred him to parishes in Dublin, Belfast, Rhode Island and North Dakota — triggered the collapse of the entire Irish government. That national shock, in turn, inspired the first victims to begin suing the church publicly.

In January 1996, Irish bishops published a groundbreaking policy document spelling out their newfound determination to report all suspected abuse cases to police.

But in his January 1997 letter seen Tuesday by the AP, Storero told the bishops that a senior church panel in Rome, the Congregation for the Clergy, had decided that the Irish church's policy of "mandatory" reporting of abuse claims conflicted with canon law.

Storero emphasized in the letter that the Irish church's policy was not recognized by the Vatican and was "merely a study document."

Storero warned that bishops who followed the Irish child-protection policy and reported a priest's suspected crimes to police ran the risk of having their in-house punishments of the priest overturned by the Congregation for the Clergy.

The 2009 Dublin Archdiocese report found that this actually happened in the case of Tony Walsh, one of Dublin's most notorious pedophiles, who used his role as an Elvis impersonator in a popular "All Priests Show" to get closer to kids.

Walsh in 1993 was kicked out of the priesthood by a secret Dublin church court — but successfully appealed the punishment to a Vatican court, which reinstated him to the priesthood in 1994. He raped a boy in a pub restroom at his grandfather's funeral wake that year. Walsh since has received a series of prison sentences, most recently a 12-year term imposed last month. Investigators estimate he raped or molested more than 100 children.

Storero's 1997 letter, originally obtained by RTE religious affairs program "Would You Believe?", said the Congregation for the Clergy was pursuing "a global study" of sexual-abuse policies and would establish worldwide child-protection policies "at the appropriate time."

Today, the Vatican's child-protection policies remain in legal limbo.

The Vatican does advise bishops worldwide to report crimes to police — in a legally nonbinding lay guide on its Web site. This recourse is omitted from the official legal advice provided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and updated last summer. That powerful policymaking body continues to stress the secrecy of canon law.

The central message of Storero's letter was reported secondhand in the 2009 Dublin Archdiocese report. The letter itself, marked "strictly confidential," has never been published before.



Related Articles
Catholic Church in Crisis
Vatican's Secret Approval Of GMOs - WikiLeaks Unveils
Vatican ordered bishops to hide abuse
Man Raped & Tortured as Child by Jesuit Arrested After Suing the Vatican
New World Order: The Devil In The Vatican (Video)
Pope blames church’s own sins for sex scandal, not outsiders (Vatican learning the art of PR)
Vatican tied Mount Graham Observatory launches LUCIFER Telescope
How the Catholic Church Created the Black Death by Eradicating the "Satanic" House Cat


Latest News from our Front Page

Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
2014-12-20 2:17
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack. Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job. Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
2014-12-20 2:13
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled. Via The Hollywood Reporter: After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move. “The ...
The Bankster International
2014-12-20 1:55
Geopolitical analysis, the art of explaining power relationships through the prism of impersonal geography, can be a helpful tool for observers of the Great Game – but it also has its limitations. A case in point is the renewed US-Russia confrontation. Think tanks and policy insiders easily sell the narrative that from the dark days of the Cold War to ...
Another banker dies under suspicious circumstances
2014-12-20 1:09
52-year-old Belgian Geert Tack – a private banker for ING who managed portfolios for wealthy individuals – was described as ‘impeccable’, ‘sporty’, ‘cared-for’, and ‘successful’ and so as Vermist reports, after disappearing a month ago, the appearance of his body off the coast of Ostend is surrounded by riddles… Impeccable. Sporty. Cared for. Successful. Just some qualifications that are attributed to ...
NATO increases military presence on Russia’s borders
2014-12-20 1:14
The Pentagon has confirmed the military buildup along Russia’s borders to ensure long-term “peace and stability” in the region. Earlier Moscow accused NATO of a sharp increase in air activity and intelligence flights in the border zone. Replying to RIA Novosti’s query on the increased number of NATO flights around Russia’s borders, a Pentagon representative told the news agency that the military ...
More News »