In a recently discovered internal Vatican document marked “Strictly Confidential” obtained by the Associated Press, the Vatican flexed its muscles over Irish bishops who adopted a child sexual abuse reporting policy that required making a police report. The policy in question required church leaders to report all child sexual abuse allegations by Irish priests to Irish law enforcement. According to a letter from the Vatican’s chief representative in Ireland, dated January 31, 1997, “the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ [of sexual abuse] gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical [church law] nature.”
As noted in the New York Times, this letter contradicts the Vatican’s repeated claims that the Vatican does not control the actions of local bishops in sexual abuse cases. This document clearly outlines the power that the Vatican has over bishops on the handling of child sexual abuse cases, including being able to prohibit the bishop from making a police report when one of his priests sexually abuses a child. This document is also consistent with other Vatican documents and policies that establish it is the Vatican that created and enforced the world-wide policy to conceal and protect pedophile priests. With the lawsuit in Portland against the Vatican moving forward, it is anticipated that this document will be only one of many documents that link the Vatican to this world-wide crisis.