LONDON - The Vatican refused to cooperate with an Irish probe into child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Dublin because the requests were not made through official channels, a leaked US cable showed Saturday.
Requests for information by the 2009 Murphy commission "offended many in the Vatican... because they saw them as an affront to Vatican sovereignty", according to a cable from the US embassy in Rome, leaked by WikiLeaks.
The Murphy commission's findings, published in November 2009, caused shock across Ireland and the worldwide Catholic community by detailing how Church authorities covered up for paedophile priests in Dublin for three decades.
Dated February 26 this year, the US cable -- published by The Guardian newspaper -- records the observations of US diplomat in Rome Julieta Noyes.
It says the commission, which was led by judge Yvonne Murphy, wrote directly to Vatican officials to ask for information on its investigations, sidestepping official diplomatic channels.
"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 cable said.
"The Murphy Commission's requests offended many in the Vatican, the Holy See's Assessor Peter Wells... told DCM (Noyes), 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, the Vatican secretary of state -- the equivalent of a prime minister -- Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote to the Irish embassy and ordered that any further requests go through diplomatic channels.
Ireland's ambassador to the Vatican, Noel Fahey, told Noyes the situation "was the most difficult crisis he had ever managed", according to the cable.
In the end Dublin did not press the Vatican to reply to the Murphy panel's requests, Fahey's deputy Helena Keleher told Noyes.
Keleher also said foreign ambassadors were not required or expected to appear before such bodies.
"Nevertheless, Keleher thought the (Vatican) Nuncio in Ireland made things worse by simply ignoring the requests," the cable said, noting that the Vatican's response only fuelled anger in Ireland over the sex abuse scandal.
Pope Benedict XVI met with Ireland's two most senior Catholic churchmen after the publication of the Murphy report, and said he shared "the outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by Irish Catholics over its findings.