VATICAN CITY - Newly released U.S. diplomatic cables indicate the Vatican felt offended that Ireland failed to respect Holy See sovereignty by asking high-ranking churchmen to answer questions from an Irish commission probing decades of clergy sex abuse of minors.
That the Holy See used its diplomatic-immunity status as a tiny city-state to try to thwart the Irish fact-finding probe has long been known. But the WikiLeaks cables, published by Britain's 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 seriousness."
The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See also condemned the leaks and said the Vatican and America cooperate in promoting universal values.
One leaked document published Saturday, written in February by diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes in Rome, cited her conversations with Irish Ambassador Noel Fahey and his deputy, Helena Keleher, about the diplomatic bind Ireland found itself in.
Ireland wanted to be seen as fully supportive of the independent probe into child-abuse cover-ups in the Dublin Archdiocese, but its officials in Rome didn't want to aid the effort to get information from the Vatican, Noyes' report said.
Noyes reported that Irish diplomats in Rome decided not to press Vatican officials to respond to questions from the panel, which was led by an Irish judge and operated independently of Ireland's government. It sent letters to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican's ambassador to Ireland, seeking information on Vatican officials' knowledge of cover-ups, but got no replies.
Noyes, citing a conversation with a Holy See official, wrote that the investigators' letters "offended many in the Vatican" because they were viewed as "an affront to Vatican sovereignty."
The diplomat wrote that "adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by publicly calling on the government to demand that the Vatican reply."
"In the end, the Irish government decided not to press the Vatican to reply," the U.S. diplomat wrote, citing Keleher.