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Irish church 'begged' Vatican to dismiss abusive priest

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DUBLIN -- A newly released chapter of the Murphy Report into the handling of clergy sex abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of Dublin between 1975 and 2004 shows Cardinal Desmond Connell "begged" Pope John Paul II to dismiss an abusive priest from the priesthood.

Chapter 19 was withheld when the report of Judge Yvonne Murphy's commission was published in November 2009 because the abuser involved -- former priest Tony Walsh -- was awaiting trial. Walsh was sentenced to 16 years in prison for abuse in early December, clearing the way for publication.

Referring to Walsh, the inquiry noted, "his pattern of behavior is such that it is likely that he has abused hundreds of children." The newly published chapter reveals that allegations of abuse made just days after Walsh's ordination in 1978 were largely ignored by church authorities and he went on to abuse freely for almost a decade, being moved from parish to parish when fresh allegations emerged.

WikiLeaks: US sought Vatican help in anti-terror plans

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VATICAN CITY -- The United States sought to engage the Vatican in joint crisis management training in hopes that it would further anti-terrorism cooperation, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Rome released by WikiLeaks.

The cable, dated Dec. 19, 2008, was approved by the outgoing ambassador to Italy, Ronald Spogli.

"The known al-Qaida antipathy to the pope" was cited as one of the reasons the embassy was keen to get the Vatican on board with an anti-terrorism plan.

The dispatch said that while Domenico Giani, the Vatican security chief, had been cool to U.S. offers of direct cooperation in dealing with threats from al-Qaida, he had in the past sought FBI training in specific areas. It said agents from the Vatican gendarme agency had received explosives handling training at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va.

Classified as "secret," the cable was addressed to the U.S. State Department and titled "Request for Crisis Management Training for Vatican."

WikiLeaks documents lift veil on Vatican diplomacy

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

Secret diplomatic cables revealed today, as part of the WikiLeaks releases, that while the Vatican was appalled by revelations of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland in 2009 and 2010, it was also offended by demands that the papal ambassador participate in a government-sponsored probe, seeing it as an insult to the Vatican’s sovereign immunity under international law.

That stance, according to the cable, came off in Ireland as “pettily procedural” while failing to confront the reality of clerical abuse, and thereby made the crisis worse.

The cables also contain critical diplomatic assessments of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to create new structures to welcome disgruntled Anglicans, as well as the perceived technological illiteracy and communications ineptitude of some senior Vatican officials.

PR woes in the Vatican, according to one cable, have lowered the volume on the pope’s “moral megaphone.”

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Vatican, PLO resume talks

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VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization have resumed diplomatic talks and agreed to establish a working group dedicated to drafting a comprehensive agreement between the two parties.

The talks are aimed at establishing "a comprehensive international agreement regulating and promoting the presence and activities of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories, so strengthening the special relations between the Holy See and the PLO," said a joint statement released by the Vatican Dec. 9.

The statement was issued at the end of initial talks, which were held Dec. 7 "in a cordial atmosphere" at the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The joint statement said the talks were designed to elaborate ways to implement the "Basic Agreement" between the Vatican and the PLO, an agreement signed in 2000 spelling out principles for guaranteeing church rights and religious freedom in territories administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Catholic AIDS workers on pope and condoms

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI's statement on condoms -- that in some circumstances using a condom to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS could be a step toward moral responsibility -- is not likely to have a huge impact on Catholic programs for the prevention and treatment of AIDS, two experts said.

Msgr. Robert Vitillo, special representative on HIV-AIDS for Caritas Internationalis, said the pope's statement is likely to have a greater impact in pastoral counseling than on the hundreds of prevention and treatment programs offered by the Catholic Church and Catholic agencies throughout the world.

In the book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which the Vatican newspaper excerpted Nov. 20, Pope Benedict repeated what he said during a trip to Africa last year, that "we cannot solve the problem (of AIDS) by distributing condoms."

Pope confronts the contradictions of Spain

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Spain is famously a land of great and contradictory passions, and certainly that’s true of its love/hate relationship with Catholicism in the early 21st century.

Under Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain has become the mother ship of European secularism, embracing fast-track divorce, legalized abortion, and gay marriage. The country is officially 94 percent Catholic, yet only 76 percent of Spaniards identify as such, and only 15 percent attend Mass regularly.

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