Murphy requests 'offended' Vatican


Requests for information from the Murphy Commission “offended many in the Vatican” who felt that the Irish government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the (Commission) investigations”, US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks have disclosed.

A cable entitled “Sex abuse scandal strains Irish-Vatican relations, shakes up Irish church, and poses challenges for the Holy See” claimed that Vatican officials also believed Irish opposition politicians were making political hay from the situation by publicly urging the government to demand a reply from the Vatican following publication of the Murphy report in November 2009.

In September 2006, the Murphy Commission, which was investigating the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004, wrote to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seeking information on reports of clerical child sex abuse sent to it by Dublin archdiocese over the period.

It also sought information on the Church document ‘Crimen Solicitationis’, which deals with clerical sex abuse.

The congregation did not reply.

Similar requests by the Commission to the papal nuncio in Dublin were also ignored.

Instead, then Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote to the Irish embassy, advising that any requests related to the investigation should come through diplomatic channels.

According to the cable Irish ambassador to the Holy See Noel Fahey told the US diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes that this was the most difficult crisis he had ever managed.

The Irish government wanted “to be seen as co-operating with the (Murphy) investigation” because its own education department was implicated, but politicians were reluctant to press Vatican officials to answer the investigators’ queries.

Mr Fahey’s deputy, Helena Keleher, the cable said, felt the Irish government acceded to Vatican pressure and granted them immunity from testifying. Officials understood that “foreign ambassadors are not required or expected to appear before national commissions”, but Keleher’s opinion was that by ignoring the commission’s requests the clergy had made the situation worse.

The ambassador reported that resentment towards the church in Rome remained very high in Ireland largely because of the institutionalised cover-up of abuse by the Catholic church hierarchy.

In a section of the cables titled “Some Lessons Learned, but Crisis Will Play Out for Years”, the ambassador related that his contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expected the crisis in the Irish Catholic church to be protracted over several years, as the Murphy commission dealt only with allegations from the Dublin archdiocese.

They believed further investigations into other dioceses would lead, “officials in both states lament, to additional painful revelations”.

In the Dáil on December 1st last year, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen defended the Vatican and the nuncio. He said that, as the commission was a body set up by government, all communications to the Vatican state should have been routed through diplomatic channels and in accordance with international law and customs.

“The commission and the Holy See, it appears, acted in good faith in this matter, even if the best outcome was not achieved,” he said.

“It is regrettable that the failure to acknowledge either letter has given rise to the impression the Holy See was refusing to co-operate with the commission,” he said, adding that its use of diplomatic channels was consistent with international law.