Image of a 1997 letter from the Vatican warning Irish bishops not to report suspected child-abuse cases to police.The Mafia-like philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy continues to be revealed as information emerges from the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal. The latest revelation comes in the form of a letter, originally written by Vatican officials to Ireland’s bishops in 1997, ordering them not to report child abuse to local authorities. The AP reports via Canada’s The Globe and Mail on this remarkable document (WebCite cached article):

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 coverup.

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.

What makes this a “smoking gun” is that it shows the Vatican to have lied about the scandal:

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.

The letter also shows the Vatican’s primary concern was to ensure that canon law — i.e. the Church’s own internal legal system — handled these cases and that secular courts would never see them. Once again we see that the Church views itself as being above the law of the countries in which it operates, and assumes itself answerable to no one and nothing else.

The Globe and Mail hosts a copy of the letter, just large enough to read if one works at it (WebCite cached version).

My guess is that Catholicism’s apologists will refuse to acknowledge the lie demonstrated in this letter and will refuse to accept any possibility of wrongdoing by Church hierarchs.

Hat tip: Repi at Atheist/Agnostic/Herding Cats on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: The AP, via The Globe and Mail.

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