Vatican Warned Irish Bishops Not To Report Child Abuse in 1997

In a discovery that is being called “the smoking gun,” Irish media is reporting that they have a 1997 letter from the Vatican warning Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police. This was from 1997 — less then 13 years ago in the midst of the scandal. This occurred during the tenure of Pope John Paul II.

The letter appears to contradict denials from Vatican officials that they ever discouraged reporting child abuse to the police.

The letter is from the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, who served as Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland (his top diplomat to that country). Storero warns that the policy of Irish bishops to report such crimes “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature.” He reminds them that both allegations and punishment must be handled within the church and that this canon “must be meticulously followed.”

Source: Yahoo

Jonathan Turley

72 thoughts on “Vatican Warned Irish Bishops Not To Report Child Abuse in 1997”

  1. Chris Bouquet:

    “What do you have to say about these efforts?”


    You can thank the myriad of plaintiff’s lawyers (many of them RCC members) who sued the Church and prompted it to reform, not in service to the Jesus of Nazareth, elsewise it would have been unneeded or come much sooner, but in service to its own bottom lines – a more reliable spot of vulnerability in my view. Churchmen always don the cloak of piety or the mantle of remorse to hide their sins. It’s as old as the religion itself, but what is utterly galling is that, even as they avert their eyes from their own iniquities, they point their accusing finger at others for their iniquities. The hypocrisy is damnable, and evidence of a rot to the core.

    Finally,funny you should quote Twain, who did greatly admire the Maid of Orleans, but not her cause. As he said:

    “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.”

    — Mark Twain, Notebook

    Brilliant man, Twain.

  2. Elaine,
    The Nuns would not have sat by and watch Priests abuse children. I agree with your statement that women should be in the hierarchy and be allowed in the priesthood. Then maybe we could get a female Pope.

  3. Chris,
    I mentioned it earlier, but maybe you missed it. Your statements about how much effort the Church is putting into preventing future pedophiles, the Pope told Irish bishope to hide information from the police! When the Pope and US bishops turn in all pedophile priests and turn over all information about the predophile priests that they are still hiding, maybe we can talk. I went through a backggound check as a volunteer coach on several occasions. Big deal. How many priests had to go through the same background check???
    Finally, not all of the Bishops are cooperating with the US Conference of Bishops guidelines and why should they since the Pope sends secret messages to Bishops to tell them not to cooperate. Thanks for your efforts, but the Church’s efforts are hollow, at best.

  4. mespo,

    “I agree with you that celibacy is an exacerbating cause, but it does not explain the obsession with pedophilia. I also think this scandal would never have happened if the RCC included women in its hierarchy. Given its first century mentality and male dominated culture, I doubt this will occur.”

    I don’t think it explains the obsession with pedophilia either. I do think the priesthood became a place where pedophiles knew they would have access to children and would likely be protected by their closed society and/or their position in the church. I doubt the scandal would have happened–or at least have been as widespread–if there were women in the church hierarchy too.

  5. Friends,

    I started my postings on this subject with the words of the current Pope apologizing to the victims of child abuse and have stated many times in this dialogue my view that these crimes were heinous. My only point has been that these crimes do not erase, forever overshadow and cancel the good works of millions of Catholics over the course of more than 2000 years, including luminaries like St. Joan of Arc, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Albert the Great, and especially the MANY MANY good priests and religious who in our day and age are giving their lives to God’s people without any reservation and who are as appalled at these crimes as we all are. Some of these posts leave the impression that the author actually believes that these crimes prove that the Church AND ALL OF ITS PEOPLE for ALL TIME have been “rotten from top to bottom”. We all know that is not true! Some of the posts seem to take the position that there is no possibility for repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, healing or hope coming out of this. I think we all also know that this is not true. I am sorry to say that many if not all of you are badly misinformed about the strenuous efforts of the Church (especially in the US) to prevent and, yes, turn in child abuse to the authorities. Are any of you aware of the background checks that all diocesan employees and volunteers have to go through in this day in age? I previously quoted the policy of the US Bishops about turning in abusers to the authorities (and quote additional policies below). What do you have to say about these efforts? Do you know any of the thousands of people working in the Church on this issue right now? I can guess your answers – i.e., “too little too late”, “hell to pay”, “hypocrites” etc. With all due respect, your sentiments seem (to me) not far from those that Luther expressed in his pamphlet “On the Papacy at Rome” dated June 25, 1520:

    “If we punish thieves with the gallows [and] robbers with the sword . . . why should we not all the more assail with arms these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these Popes, the whole dregs of Roman Sodom, who have been corrupting the Church of God without intermission, and wash our hands in their blood?”

    If no one in the Church can do anything to correct the wrong, if all 1 billion people in the Church are corrupt because of the corruption of a few criminals, if there is no policy or apology or settlement amount that can even begin to make reparation, why not just join in Luther’s sentiment?

    I can tell you one of the key reasons why I would not join such a condemnation – because of the example of Catholics who fought for their faith like Joan of Arc. As Twain said:

    “There is no one to compare her with, none to measure her by; for all others among the illustrious grew toward their high place in an atmosphere and surroundings which discovered their gift to them and nourished it and promoted it, intentionally or unconsciously. There have been other young generals . . . but they had been soldiers before they were generals; she began as a general; she commanded the first army she ever saw; she led it from victory to victory, and never lost a battle with it . . . she is the only soldier in history who has held supreme command of a nation’s armies at the age of seventeen.

    Her history has still another feature which sets her apart and leaves her without fellow or competitor: there have been many uninspired prophets, but she was the only one who ever ventured the daring detail of naming, along with the foretold event, the event’s precise nature, the special time limit within which it could occur and the place – and scored fulfillment. . .

    We know what Joan of Arc was like, without asking – merely by what she did. The artist should paint her spirit-then he could not fail to paint her body aright. She would rise before us, then, a vision to win us, not repel: a lithe young slender figure, instinct with the “unbought grace of youth”, dear and bonny and lovable, the face beautiful, and transfigured with the light of that lustrous intellect and the fires of that unquenchable spirit.”

    In closing, I quote Fr. Benedict Groeschel:

    “How Can the Church of Christ Fail Us?”

    Every year priests celebrate Holy Thursday as the anniversary of the Catholic priesthood. It is also the anniversary of the day when the first priests failed so terribly. In the early evening they were all made what we have come to call the priests of the New Testament. Later in the evening they ran way. Does that tell you something about the Church? Is it the true Church? Yes. But in this world it is a collection of poor sinners. It will be, as St. Paul says, in eternal life, a Church without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish, but not in this world.

    In Christ Who Makes All Things New,

    Chris, a sinner

    Policy Extracts


    Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations
    . . .

    Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.

    US Conference of Catholic Bishops

    ARTICLE 4. Dioceses/eparchies are to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the public authorities. Dioceses/ eparchies are to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and cooperate in their investigation in accord with the law of the jurisdiction in question.

    Diocese of Arlington, VA

    Section 7.1 Any personnel of the Diocese as defined in Section 2.7, above, including religious personnel, lay employees and lay volunteers, who have actual knowledge of, or who have reasonable cause to suspect that, an incident of child abuse or illegal sexual misconduct has been perpetrated by any personnel of the Diocese while performing the work of, or any activities under the auspices of, the Diocese shall comply with any applicable
    reporting or other requirements of state and local laws (See Section 4), unless to do so would violate the priest/penitent relationship. Any individual who discloses abuse shall be advised to share the information with civil authorities and will be provided with the necessary support and assistance to do so.

    Archdiocese of NY

    7.0 OBLIGATION TO REPORT. Any personnel of the Archdiocese who have actual knowledge of or who have reasonable cause to suspect sexual misconduct by any other personnel of the Archdiocese shall comply with the requirements of law as set forth
    above (unless to do so would violate the priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the privilege of confidential communication made to a priest “in his professional character as spiritual advisor.” )

    Archdiocese of Washington, DC

    If you suspect child abuse (sexual, physical or neglect of anyone under the age of 18) or have been a victim of child abuse, report it immediately to the local law enforcement agency or the local department of social services (Department of Child Protective Services in the District of Columbia).

  6. Mr. Bouquet,

    There is one more thing I’d like to add…

    I’d like to bring to the front and center a subject the church has been loathe to acknowledge, though it is indeed a fruit of their labors.

    Suicide. Many suicides. A direct result of the “love” they received from their “fathers” hands. So much innocent blood crying, crying… crying. Can you not hear it?

    Yes Mr. Bouquet, there is hell to pay. *If* you do not believe it, you do not believe the very things you confess and profess. There is a particular word for that.

    In any case, I’m done here. And a good day to you too sir.

  7. “In the end perhaps I was exposed to too much religious difference and thus unable to find any one particular religion all good or all bad.”

    To me what you write is both wise and positive. It is hubristic for humans of a particular faith, or no faith at all, to think that we in our relatively short history are capable of understanding the universe and its’ creation. As I’ve stated I believe that somehow there is a creative force behind all this, but I am unable to comprehend what that force might be.

    In my opinion religion came about when we humans began to think about the reality of our own mortality. We all have to find ways to cope with this knowledge, or spend lives filled with fear and despair. For some that need was fulfilled by religion. For others philosophy, or some palliative that had meaning for them. There was also the fact that genetically we are predators and as entities larger than a family developed, there arose a need to find some way to restrain our more aggressive predatory tendencies.

    Religion in and of itself can be positive for some. Where it all begins to go wrong is when a religious establishment develops, particular one establishing a doctrine of “our way or the highway.” Being exposed to different religious beliefs can be very positive for one who has an open inquiring mind, as you do. I’m sure you’ve developed your own sense of what this eternal mystery is all about and can draw comfort from it.

    To me it is those who can only view the world through the lense of their particular faith, who are really the most insecure, appearing outwardly serene and positive as an expression of their own bravado. There becomes a pressing need for many of them and the religious establishments they follow to enforce their beliefs on others and censor dissent of any kind. If they don’t, then the cracks in their own faith appear
    and with that comes terror.

  8. Mr. Bouquet,

    Your words are starting to ring shallow.

    Your sleight of words – maximizing the positive and minimizing the pain, is unfortunately par for the Catholic course.

    And so your church’s relevance continues to wane.

  9. Elaine M:

    I agree with you that celibacy is an exacerbating cause, but it does not explain the obsession with pedophilia. I also think this scandal would never have happened if the RCC included women in its hierarchy. Given its first century mentality and male dominated culture, I doubt this will occur.

    Dr. McHugh:

    Thank you for your courageous stance and the information you provided. Yours is an important story that needs to be told again and again, chipping away at the wall of silence that protects these pernicious men.

    The Church will change on the very day that it accepts the reality that is enjoys no special relationship with any deity –real or imagined.

  10. Dr. McHugh,
    Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I know what you mean about noone to turn to when this happens. I was never abused as a child, but if the Nuns or the Priest said it, my Mom would believe it follow their lead, no matter what. I would hope that she would have balked if someone had been abused at our Parish school. The Pope is really trying to turn the clock back and I don’t see him changing his ways anytime soon.
    You are right that the Eastern divisions still allow their priests to marry. I wonder if anyone has done any studies comparing the child abuse in the Western rites vs the Eastern rites to see if maybe Celibacy has a direct link to the abuse.

  11. Mike Spindell,

    I’m probably more in line with your thinking. I hesitate when attempting to tell someone else what their religion (or the religion they were taught as a child) is for the only religious belief system I totally understand is the one I was raised in which was Congregationalism.

    My best friend was Catholic and raised a strict Catholic and she is still praying that I get into heaven becomes I’m Protestant.

    Due to music, and don’t ask me why this is, most of my other childhood friends were of the Jewish faith and I spent a lot of time on the road with them going from city to city to perform with symphony orchestras and in their homes for “section” practice. We became family and that very much included the traditions that guide their faiths.

    At the age of 14 I was introduced to jazz and gospel and started spending time in black churches which were mainly Baptist. Too be perfectly honest, those people were the most fun and seemed to have a working religion that benefited all.

    In the end perhaps I was exposed to too much religious difference and thus unable to find any one particular religion all good or all bad.

  12. Blouise,

    I think it was around the 12th century when priests in the “western” Catholic church were required to be celibate/not allowed to marry. The “eastern” church is a different story.

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