A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure with the potential to fuel more lawsuits worldwide against the Vatican, which has long denied any involvement in coverups.
The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican's rejection of an Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests.
The letter's message undermines persistent Vatican claims that the church never instructed bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. Instead, the letter emphasizes the church's right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.
Catholic officials in Ireland declined requests for comment on the letter, which RTE
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