Smoking Gun Vatican Letter to Irish Bishops

There. That was my attempt at a sensationalist headline. I immediately invoke John L. Allen’s advice that

any news item with the word “Vatican” in the headline [should] carry the following proviso: “Warning: The following story may be bunk.”

But let’s not make light of a what is an important story, the revelation (in an Irish TV report aired on January 17 by the RTE network called “Unspeakable Crimes”) that:

In 1996, the Irish bishops had devised a new set of policies for handling such allegations, including a mandate to inform law-enforcement officials of all credible reports of abuse. But in January 1997 the apostolic nuncio serving in Ireland, Archbishop Luciano Storero, sent a letter to the Irish bishops, conveying the decision of the Congregation for Clergy that the policies should not be carried out.

In particular, Archbishop Storero— a veteran Vatican diplomat who was nuncio in Ireland from 1995 until his death in 2000—said that the policy of mandatory reporting “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.” The letter from Archbishop Storero, which had previously been kept confidential, was apparently furnished to the RTE investigation by an Irish bishop.

Those two paragraphs come from this analysis of the story at Catholic Culture, which analyses the findings and claims of that TV report. (HT to Jeff Tan for this).

This is where John Allen’s advice comes in. To say that this was a “Vatican” directive can be misleading because – while the directive obviously DID come from someone in the Holy See (most likely, according to the Catholic Culture analysis, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos who was the head of the Congregation for the Clergy) it gives two false impressions:

1) that there was a united Vatican policy on this. The CC analysis highlights the debate – not about whether but – about when (ie. how early) Cardinal Ratzinger adopted his own very different stance to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.

2) that this directive in someway came from Pope John Paul II himself. Admittedly (and I haven’t seen the actual TV program), this second claim is not (as far as I know) made in “Unspeakable Crimes”, the impression can be left whenever something is said to come “from the Vatican”.

The CC analysis also points out that even if the Nuncio did issue such a directive on behalf of the Congregation for the Clergy, it certainly should not have stopped any particular bishop from dealing with any matters that came to their attention in other ways.

As they say, the investigation continues.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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1 Response to Smoking Gun Vatican Letter to Irish Bishops

  1. matthias says:

    Thanks for this Schutz. I think you need to ensure that tbhis hits the mainstream media- ah joke i know,because the report i rwead on yahoo was fairly derogatory towards the church ,and implied that the church had disrespect for the law of the land. Let ‘s not forget that a late pastor of an inner east Baptist church here in melbourne apparently abused young female congregants. It only came to light after he died. Does this eman that the BUV hd it ,or was he so far on a pedestal that those who complained had their credibility questioned??

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