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Vatican sets limits to cooperation with sex abuse investigations

The Vatican has insisted that it is firmly against the policy of the Catholic Church to hand over files on priests to civil investigations in Ireland or elsewhere.

Despite the pledges of co-operation from Irish bishops, they are not expected to contradict the position laid down by Rome - that as a point of principle, these files should stay confidential.

"We do not believe Church files should be handed over," insisted a senior Vatican source at the weekend, when the Holy See announced it would accept Irish Bishop Brendan Comiskey's resignation.

The view was backed up by other clerics inside the Vatican, who confirmed this was the Church's official stance.

It is believed that in the wake of a decision by US Cardinals to co-operate with US criminal investigations, the Church is determined not to set a precedent elsewhere.

The Vatican believes that since files on priests contain information of both a personal and spiritual nature, these should not be divulged to State authorities. They argued that it sets a dangerous precedent, breaching confidentiality between priests and their bishop.

The Catholic Church also made the unusual move of appointing the auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Eamon Walsh to the position of "apostolic administrator", instead of announcing Bishop Comiskey's successor to the Diocese of Ferns. Dr Walsh, a trained barrister, must answer directly to Rome and does not enjoy the traditional independence of Diocesan Bishops - a form of Roman direct rule, described jokingly inside the Vatican as a form of 'martial law'.

Statement of the Irish Bishops' Conference Following Extraordinary General Meeting, 8/5/02

Irish Independent

12 Apr 2002