Vatican won’t hand over papers to Aussie abuse commission

The Vatican has refused a royal commission request that it hand over all information relating to child sex abuse committed by priests in Australia.

The head of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, told a victims’ group he had written to the Vatican on the matter.

He sought copies of all documents relating to complaints about abuse involving priests in Australia.

The Vatican has provided two sets of documents to the royal commission, and said it may provide others where copies are not available in Australia.

But Justice McClellan wanted more information to find out how the church hierarchy in Australia, under the guidance or direction of the Vatican, responded to the allegations of abuse.

In a written response, the Vatican told the commission “that requests for all information regarding every case – which include requests for documents reflecting internal ‘deliberations’ – are not appropriate”.

It said the Holy See maintained the confidentiality of internal deliberations related to its judicial and administrative proceedings.

The reason was it “depends upon deliberative confidentiality to ensure the integrity and efficacy of its judicial and administrative processes”.

Western Australian Liberal MP Steve Irons said he would ask the federal government to become involved in the matter.

Leonie Sheedy, founder and chief executive of CLAN, a support group for victims of child sexual abuse, said the actions of the Holy See showed the Catholic Church was treating the Australian public with contempt.

Last month, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide told the royal commission that the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy hindered bishops’ efforts to deal with abusive priests in the 1990s.

Justice McClellan used his address to defend the continuing work of the commission against commentary that was ”ill-informed” on its practices and impacts.

This followed comments by Catholic lawyer and Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan last week that the commission was paralysing agencies trying to deal with child sexual abuse.

Fr Brennan said that if the commission ran for another three and a half years, institutions such as the Catholic Church and state agencies would be left in limbo, unable to implement change until the commission reported.

The royal commission has asked the Australian government that it be able to extend its work until the end of the 2017.


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