THE Vatican has hit back after cables released by WikiLeaks indicated it refused to cooperate with an Irish probe into child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Dublin.
The Vatican press office yesterday expressed scepticism at the reliability of the reports in a statement that referred to “the extreme seriousness of publishing such a large amount of secret and confidential material, and its possible consequences”.
“Naturally these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself, nor as exact quotations of the words of its officials,” it said.
“Their reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind.”
A cable from the US embassy in Rome, carried by The Guardian, had said requests for information by Ireland’s Murphy Commission “offended many in the Vatican… because they saw them as an affront to Vatican sovereignty”.
The Murphy commission’s findings, published in November 2009, caused shock across Ireland and the worldwide Catholic community by detailing how Church authorities covered up for pedophile priests in Dublin for three decades.
Dated February 26 this year, the cable quoted US diplomat in Rome Julieta Noyes as saying: “While Vatican contacts immediately expressed deep sympathy for the victims and insisted that the first priority was preventing a recurrence, they also were angered by how the situation played out politically.”
Apart from the “affront to Vatican sovereignty”, the cable said Vatican officials were annoyed that Dublin “did not step in to direct the Murphy Commission to follow standard procedures in communications with Vatican City”.
“Adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by calling publicly on the government to demand that the Vatican reply.”
Ultimately, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote to the Irish embassy and ordered that any further requests go through diplomatic channels.
The US ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, said in a separate statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the disclosure of what is alleged to be classified State Department information. We will not comment on the content or the authenticity of that information.”
Diaz hailed the Obama administration’s “robust foreign policy that focuses on promoting America’s national interests and leading the world in solving the most complex challenges of our time”.
“The Embassy of the United States to the Holy See has engaged in ongoing efforts with the Vatican to turn interfaith dialogue into actions in many of these areas, for the sake of the common good,” he said.
Another cable concerning the Vatican revealed by WikiLeaks yesterday showed that Britain feared Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation for disgruntled Anglicans to switch to Catholicism might spark anti-Catholic violence at home.
A 2002 cable published by the New York Times revealed that US diplomats believe some top members of the Vatican’s hierarchy still harbour anti-Semitic views.
Other cables said the Vatican agreed to help the United States in behind-the-scenes lobbying of states to join the Copenhagen Accord on climate change, and was instrumental in securing the release of 15 British navy personnel detained by Iran in 2007.