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.
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.