Vatican says its Irish abuse letter misunderstood

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The Vatican says a letter warning Irish bishops against reporting sexual abuse of children to police has been misunderstood.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that with its 1997 letter, the Vatican wanted to ensure that Irish bishops follow church law precisely so that pedophile priests would not have any technical grounds to escape church punishment.

Lombardi issued the statement Wednesday after The Associated Press reported that the letter from the Holy See's top diplomat in Ireland told bishops that their "mandatory reporting" of abuse policy "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature."

Ireland's top prelate had recommended in 1996 that bishops report known or suspected abuse to police....

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