WikiLeaks disclosures 'serious', says Vatican

Monday 13 December 2010 12.40
Clerical child abuse - WikiLeaks release highlights tensions
Clerical child abuse - WikiLeaks release highlights tensions

The Vatican has described the posting of WikiLeaks transcripts of secret and confidential material relating to it as an act of extreme seriousness.

Among other Vatican cables, the website posted details of a leaked cable from the US Embassy to the Holy See which suggests that many in the Vatican were offended by requests for information from the Murphy Commission, which they saw as an affront to Vatican sovereignty.

Last year, the Commission investigating clerical child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese said the Vatican had failed to acknowledge a number of written requests for information.

In a statement this evening, the Vatican press office has 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.’

The Holy See has said that ‘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.’

The statement continued that ‘their reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind.’

The contentious cable dated 26 February 2010, quoted a 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.’

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.

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.

Last year Judge Yvonne Murphy's independent Commission investigating the Catholic Church's handling of abuse allegations in the Dublin Archdiocese said the Vatican had failed to acknowledge a number of written requests for information.

After the publication of the report, Taoiseach Brian Cowen agreed that the commission had been incorrect not to have used diplomatic channels.

Responding to the leaks, a prominent survivor of clerical abuse, Andrew Madden, said the Government had protected the Vatican's sovereignty in the affair and had shielded Rome from scrutiny on clerical abuse.

Maeve Lewis, Executive Director of One in Four, said she thought it was laughable that the Vatican would have been offended by the request for information from the Murphy Commission.

She said this supports the view that the Catholic Church has continuously failed to accept institutional responsibility for sexual crimes against children.

Ms Lewis said it was very regrettable that the Vatican had not co-operated with the inquiry at the time.

She said there had been a number of abuse survivors in touch with One in Four since news broke about the leaked cables on the WikiLeaks website.

Meanwhile, another cable concerning the Vatican revealed by WikiLeaks has shown 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 has revealed that US diplomats believe some top members of the Vatican's hierarchy allegedly still harbour anti-Semitic views.

Other cables have said that the Vatican allegedly agreed to help the US 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.

Cables also reveal the extent to which the Vatican attempts to exert its influence on the world stage, lobbying to keep Turkey out of the European Union, and arguing for a ban on human cloning.