US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that the Vatican would not allow its officials to testify before an Irish commission, investigating child abuse by clerics, according to The Guardian.
The cables revealed that the 2009 Murphy commission’s requests for information "offended many in the Vatican," who felt that the Irish government had "failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations.”
The commission substantiated many of the abuse claims despite the lack of co-operation from the Vatican, and in a report, identified 320 people who complained of child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004 in the Dublin archdiocese.
One cable entitled "Sex abuse scandal strains Irish-Vatican relations, shakes up Irish church, and poses challenges for the Holy See" said that Vatican officials believed Irish opposition politicians to be “making political hay” from the crisis by publicly pushing the government to demand a reply from the Vatican.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, wrote to the Irish embassy, ordering that any requests related to the investigation must come through diplomatic channels.
Noel Fahey, the Irish ambassador to the Holy See, told US diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes that the scandal was the most difficult crisis he had ever managed. Although the government wanted “to be seen as co-operating with the investigation,” politicians did not want to press Vatican officials to answer the investigators’ queries.
Helena Keleher, Fahey’s deputy, said the Irish government succumbed to pressure from the Vatican and granted them immunity from testifying, with the understanding that "foreign ambassadors are not required or expected to appear before national commissions.” Keleher believed that the clergy made the situation worse by ignoring the requests.
On December 11, 2009, the ambassador stated that the pope had held a meeting with senior Irish clerics, including the Irish cardinal Seán Brady and the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
After the meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying that the pope shared the "outrage, betrayal, and shame" of Irish Catholics.
On March 21 of this year, Pope Benedict issued a letter to the Irish bishops regarding their handling of the crisis, stating: "Grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness."
The pope also sent an apology to the abused victims, saying: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel."
In a section of the cable entitled "Some Lessons Learned, but Crisis Will Play Out for Years", the ambassador revealed that both his Vatican and Ireland contacts anticipated that the crisis in the church would be drawn out for several years, since the Murphy commission only dealt only with allegations from the Dublin archdiocese and that investigations into other archdioceses would lead, "officials in both states lament, to additional painful revelations.”