Vatican officials told Irish not to report child abuse

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A Vatican department advised Ireland's Catholic bishops in 1997 not to report priests suspected of child abuse to the police, a newly revealed letter shows.

Obtained by Irish broadcaster RTE, the letter shows Vatican officials rejected an initiative to begin the "mandatory reporting" of abuse claims.

The proposed policy "gives rise to serious reservations", it says.

The Vatican has persistently said it never instructed bishops to withhold suspicions or evidence of crimes.

Abuse victims in Ireland and the US said the letter, which RTE said it had received from an Irish bishop, was a "smoking gun" that would serve as important evidence in lawsuits against the Church.

But the Vatican said it represented an approach to sex abuse cases shaped by a particular Vatican office, the Congregation for the Clergy, before 2001....

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