Vatican: 1997 Irish abuse letter 'misunderstood'
By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) --" In a new round of damage control, the Vatican insisted Wednesday that a 1997 letter warning Irish bishops against reporting priests suspected of sex abuse to police had been "deeply misunderstood."
"The Associated Press on Tuesday reported the contents of the letter, in which the Vatican's top diplomat in Ireland told bishops that their policy of mandatory reporting such cases to police "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature."
"The letter confirms that the cover-up goes as far as the Vatican, that Vatican officials knew exactly what was going on, and that they proactively sought to deter Irish bishops from cooperating with civil authorities in Ireland," said Andrew Madden, a former Dublin altar boy who was raped repeatedly by a priest, Ivan Payne, in the 1980s.
"This letter also documents how the church remained of the view that it is a law unto itself, how its rules and regulations regarding the handling of a criminal offense take precedence over civil society's laws," said Madden, who in 1995" became the first victim in Ireland to go public with a lawsuit against the church.
..."Yet as a result of the 1997 letter, most Irish dioceses never implemented the 1996 commitment to report all suspected abuse cases to police, according to the conclusions of the government-mandated investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese published in 2009."
"This in fact never took place because of the response of Rome," the commission said in its report, although it quoted Dublin Archdiocese officials as saying it was implemented there."
"That eight-year inquiry interviewed two senior Dublin Archdiocese canon lawyers involved in handling abuse complaints. They were quoted as saying the letter discouraged bishops from pursuing their 1996 initiative for fear of being overruled by Rome, as had already happened in one notorious case of a serial pedophile."
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
No amount of spin by the Vatican will justify their refusal to "defrock" serial pedophile priests who raped Catholic children. How could Vatican policy NOT demand mandatory reporting to civil officials of clergy crimes everywhere in the world? How could the Vatican return these pedophiles to ministry and risk more attacks on innocent children? In some instances, the Vatican explained,that the reason they did not defrock priests was to avoid scandal. What? The real scandal here is the crimes against thousands of children and youth, and the hierarchy's efforts to cover up such hideous acts. And now, this letter provides evidence, that the blame for the sexual abuse scandal belongs at the Vatican's doorsteps.
It was reported in the RTE Special television report that the bishops in Ireland and the United States appealed to the Vatican to get rid of serial pedophiles, and were rebuffed.
So now it appears the Vatican is denying that it is responsible.
I honestly hope that the Irish bishops challenge the Vatican and inform the Pope that they will not be part of a global cover-up any longer or take the blame for the Vatican's failure to tell the truth about its role in this tragic debacle! This summer the Pope refused to accept the resignation of two of these bishops involved in the sex abuse crisis in Ireland. Why? Did the Irish bishops complain about the lack of pastoral response on the part of the Vatican? Now the ball appears to be in the Irish bishops' court with the release of this letter. The question is will the Irish bishops have the courage to confront the Vatican and demand systemic change? Or will they close ranks and protect their own and keep the clerical system intact?
The Catholic Church is at a crossroads. Will we continue to support a corrupt hierarchical, clerical system, turn a blind eye to its failures that are tearing the Body of Christ apart or will the people of God, in genuine faithfulness to the Gospel, demand a reformation and renewal of our church?
Let us pray that the Catholc community in Ireland and around the world will move forward and support genuine structural reforms in our church. It is time for a renewed priestly ministry that will transform clericalism and will include women priests, and married priests in Spirit-led, Christ-centered, people empowered, inclusive grassroots communities of equals.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP