The Vatican

The Richmond-Times Dispatch is reporting that a newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police. This disclosure is being described as "the smoking gun" by victims groups that needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of cover-up.

The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to the Associated Press, documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests after Ireland's first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits. The letter challenges continuous Vatican claims that there was no cover-up and that the church in Rome never advised local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from the police. "The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

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With the surfacing of this letter, victims of pedophile priests may indeed get justice. What about future incidents? Will they still be handled in-house or will they be turned over to the police for prosecution, as they should be?

Read more at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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