VATICAN CITY (AP) â€” Newly released U.S. diplomatic cables indicate that Ireland caved in to Vatican pressure to grant immunity to church officials in the government probe of decades of sex abuse by Irish clergy in the predominantly Catholic nation.
That the Holy See used its diplomatic immunity status as a tiny-city state to try to thwart Ireland’s government-led probe has long been known. But the WikiLeaks cables, published by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on Saturday, contain delicate, behind-the-scenes diplomatic assessments of the highly charged situation.
The Vatican press office declined to comment on the content of the cables Saturday, but decried the leaks as a matter of “extreme gravity.”
The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See also condemned the leaks and said in a statement that the Vatican and American cooperate in promoting universal values.
According to the deputy to the Irish ambassador to the Holy See, the Irish government gave in to Vatican pressure and granted church officials immunity in exchange for testifying, according to one of the cables from a U.S. diplomat.
Ambassador Noel Fahey apparently told U.S. diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes that the sex abuse scandal was a tricky one to manage.
The Irish government wanted to be seen as cooperating with the investigation because its own education department was implicated in decades of abuse, but politicians were reluctant to insist Vatican officials answer the investigators’ questions, the cables indicate.
One cable discloses the behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuvers during which Irish politicians tried to persuade the Vatican to cooperate with the probe.
Saturday’s Vatican press official statement said the WikiLeaks cables should be evaluated with “reservations” and “prudence,” and not be taken as an “expression” of the Holy See.
The cables also contain information regarding the Vatican’s relations with the Anglican Communion, which includes the Church of England and its affiliates in more than 160 countries.
One cable reports that Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican warned that the pope’s invitation to disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic church had chilled relations between the two churches and risked inciting a violent backlash against British Catholics.
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