Monday, December 27, 2010

10 Vatican 33: A Sausage Making View of State Department Censoring

Before Cablegate was a twinkle in Julian Assange’s eye, I had a FOIA request submitted on my behalf to the United States State Department regarding the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals. At the time, I was flirting with the idea of abandoning special education for a career as a freelance journalist and reporter extraordinaire. Since my learning disabilities preclude easy accuracy with grammar and syntax, I have opted to be an investigative blogger of the hobbyist-variety. However, my FOIA requests have gradually worked their way though the system and I write expose based on them.

Approximately year after the FOIA request was submitted, I received four cables from AMEMBASSY VATICAN (The American Embassy in the Vatican) from the State Department’s FOIA staff. One them was 10 VATICAN 33, a cable formerly classified “SECRET,” meaning at its creation, unauthorized access to or leaking of the cable would have caused “grave damage" to American national security. Not surprisingly, portions of it are still redacted in the released version.

10 Vatican 33                                                            

However, thanks to WikiLeaks, the redacted portions of this cable are available for public consumption, giving the average reader a direct, Vienna sausage making view of what the AMEMBASSY Vatican holds to be “Secret” and capable of endangering American lives.

Below are the excised portions of the cable I posted above with some light commentary. For the record, I have deleted the daffy ASCII characters contained within the WikiLeaks copy of the cable that I am posting here. The WikiLeaks version is available at their official site.

Section 1- Initially classified “Confidential” in its entirety; a brief portion was released in response to my FOIA request. Here are the redacted portions:

Vatican and Irish officials first concern was for the victims, but that reality was sometimes obscured in the events that followed which also cast a chill on Irish-Vatican relations. The Vatican believes the Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations. Much of the Irish public views the Vatican protests as pettily procedural and failing to confront the real issue of horrific abuse and cover-up by Church officials. The resulting profound crisis in the Irish Church, meanwhile, required intervention by Pope Benedict, who met with Irish Church leaders in December 2009 and in February 2010 to discuss next steps. Although the Pope will address a pastoral letter on the situation to Irish Catholics in the next few weeks, both the Vatican and the local Catholic Church agree that further follow-up should be handled domestically in Ireland. The Vatican’s relatively swift response to this crisis showed it learned key lessons from the U.S. sex abuse scandals in 2002 but still left some Catholics - in Ireland and beyond -- feeling disaffected. The crisis will play out for years inside Ireland, where future revelations are expected, even as new clerical sex abuse allegations are being made in Germany. End Summary

Sections 4-7 were withheld from me in their entirety. The State Department’s redactors went as far as to obscure which sections of the cable were being withheld. From the copy of the cable provided to me, it is unclear whether or not portions of section 3 are being redacted despite being the section being classified as Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) and thus not illegible for b(1) protection. 

4. (S/NF) While Vatican contacts immediately expressed deep sympathy for the victims and insisted that the first priority was preventing a recurrence, they also were angered by how the situation played out politically. The Murphy Commission’s requests offended many in the Vatican, the Holy See’s Assessor Peter Wells (protect strictly) told DCM, because they saw them as an affront to Vatican sovereignty. Vatican officials were also angered that the Government of Ireland did not step in to direct the Murphy Commission to follow standard procedures in communications with Vatican City. Adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by calling publicly on the government to demand that the Vatican reply. Ultimately, Vatican Secretary of State (Prime Minister equivalent) Bertone wrote to the Irish Embassy that requests related to the investigation must come through diplomatic channels via letters rogatory.
5. (S/NF) The Irish Embassy to the Holy See offered to facilitate better communications between the Irish commission and the Holy See, but neither party took any further action. Irish Ambassador Noel Fahey (formerly ambassador to Washington) told DCM this was the most difficult crisis he had ever managed. The Irish government wanted to be seen as cooperating with the investigation because its Education Department was implicated, but did not want to insist that the Vatican answer the requests because they had come outside of regular channels. In the end, the Irish government decided not to press the Vatican to reply, according to Fahey’s Deputy, Helena Keleher. Moreover, Keleher
VATICAN 00000033 002.2 OF 003
told Polchief the CDF probably did not have much to add to the inquiry. Regarding the request for the Nuncio to testify, Keleher said the GOI understood that foreign ambassadors are not required or expected to appear before national commissions. Nevertheless, Keleher thought the Nuncio in Ireland made things worse by simply ignoring the requests.
6. (C) The resentment caused by the Murphy Commission tactics - and failure of the Government of Ireland to temper them -- now has worn off a little in Rome. This is in part because the legal and diplomatic questions posed by the Commission’s demands are now moot since the Murphy Commission released its report in November 2009. It substantiated many of the claims and also concluded that some bishops tried to cover up the abuses, putting the interests of the Church ahead of those of the victims.
7. (C) The Irish people’s anger, however, has not worn off. The refusal of the Holy See to respond to the Murphy Commission questions caused a furor of public disbelief in Ireland when it became known. Foreign Minister Martin was forced to call in the Papal Nuncio to discuss the situation. The Irish public was not mollified. Resentment toward the Church in Rome remains very high, particularly because of the institutionalized cover-up of abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy. In the wake of the scandal, four of the five bishops named in the Murphy Report have resigned; the fifth has refused to quit. Archbishop Martin’s Christmas Eve Midnight Mass announcement of the resignation of two of the five key bishops named in the Murphy report was met be thunderous applause, which he had a hard time quieting.
A few words were redacted on National Security grounds in section 8. Specifically, it was viewed as “prejudicial” to American interests and security that the Vatican know that AMEMBASSY VATICAN thought the normally cautious Vatican moved with with uncharacteristic speed to deal with the sex abuse scandal.
8.(C)Meanwhile, the normally cautious Vatican moved with uncharacteristic speed to address the internal Church crisis. The Pope convoked a meeting with senior Irish clerical leaders on December 11, 2009. Irish Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin came to Rome and met with the Pontiff, who was flanked by Cardinal Bertone (the Vatican Prime Minster equivalent), and four other Cardinals whose duties include oversight over some aspect of the Irish situation. At the end of the meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying that the Pope shared the outrage, betrayal, and shame of Irish Catholics over the deliberations, that he was praying for the victims, and that the Church would take steps to prevent recurrences. Archbishop Martin told reporters afterwards that he expected a major shake-up of the Church in Ireland.

Sections 9-10 are provided without redaction. However, sections 11-14 are redacted with the exception of two titles. I present them below:

11. (C/NF) Judging by media commentary, many non-Irish Catholics felt the Vatican’s response to the crisis was a good start but more was needed. Irish Deputy Head of Mission Keleher told polchief on February 18 that she sympathized with victims’ groups’ criticism of the Vatican statement, because it was not more focused on the pain caused to the victims. Victims’ associations also have complained that the Pope did not issue an apology for the abuses and that he did not order the removal of the remaining bishop accused of the cover-up. (Archbishop Martin’s comments in December apparently had convinced many that the Vatican would remove the errant bishops if they did not quit.)
Comment: Some Lessons Learned, but Crisis Will Play Out for Years
--------------------------------------------- --------------------
VATICAN 00000033 003.2 OF 003
12. (C) In keeping with the Catholic practice of making local bishops ultimately responsible for the management of their dioceses, we expect that the locus of the crisis and measures to address it will remain largely with the Catholic Church in Ireland. One exception will be on decisions of whether to accept or reject resignation offers from the implicated bishops -- or the removal of the bishop who refused to offer his resignation -- which rest with the Pope. The other big exception will be the Pope’s pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, in which the Vatican may address concerns and criticisms about statements and actions undertaken to date. After this, though, the Vatican will return to the background - while keeping an eye on the Irish bishops and continuing to urge them to speak with one voice. Our contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expect the crisis in the Irish Catholic Church to be protracted over several years, as only allegations from the Dublin Archdiocese have been investigated to date. Investigations of allegations from other Archdioceses will lead, officials in both states lament, to additional painful revelations.
13. (C) In Ireland, these abuse scandals occurred at the end of a long period of increasing secularization of society - and may further reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. Indeed, the great vehemence of the Irish reaction to this crisis reflects how far the Catholic Church in Ireland has fallen. Once ensconced in the Irish Constitution, the Irish Catholic Church reached the height of its prestige and power with the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II but it has been falling ever since. At the same time, the Murphy Report reflects Irish shame over the collaboration of Ireland’s state bodies, including its schools, courts and police, in the appalling abuses and cover-up that occurred for decades.
14. (S) Vatican analysts, meanwhile, agree that the Holy See’s handling of the Irish scandal shows the Vatican learned some important lessons from the U.S. sex abuse scandal of 2002. By acting quickly to express horror at allegations, to label the alleged acts both crimes and sins, and to call in the local leaders to discuss how to prevent recurrences, the Vatican limited - but certainly did not eliminate - the damage caused to the Church’s standing in Ireland and worldwide. Unfortunately, given the growing abuse scandal in Germany, it may need to deploy those lessons again before long. End Comment.

Section 15 mentions that Ambassador Diaz helped to create the cable.
I cannot say that I find anything within these cables that would case “grave damage” to American national security. Public information such as the Irish cheering the demise of rape apologists and protectors hardly seems “prejudicial” to American interests. Most of this information is public domain information already and shocking to no one with a basic familiarity with the situation.

No comments:

Post a Comment