I'm skittish about using the "smoking gun" analogy with reference to the Vatican's go-slow-on-abuse letter to the Irish bishops. Tucson's still in the rear view mirror and, besides, guns shouldn't smoke either.
But with all due respect to John Allen, his effort to reduce the significance of the Vatican's warning to a "public relations embarrassment" that doesn't rise to the level of a deadly weapon misses the point in my opinion.
The "1997 letter" as it will be exhibited in the court document doesn't itself carry the decisive load of guilt. It is, rather, this item adds to the cumulative stack of evidence of malfeasance.
As burden of proof grows, the efforts to explain the evidence as a misunderstanding of good intentions or as so historically conditioned that it would have made common sense at the time become even less credible. Ambiguity doesn't neutralize primary motivations.
The letter attempting to curb the reporting of sex abuse to civil authorities can be rationalized in all sorts of ways but the fact remains that it contains nothing to indicate primary concern for victims or for higher levels of justice. The letter says, in effect, refrain from reporting theses abuses -- period.
One more item points to a tolerance for abuse and coverup.