Monday, December 13, 2010

A spate of U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks portray the Vatican as horrified over clerical sex abuse in Ireland but also deeply concerned that the procedures used by Irish investigators of the scandal were "an affront to Vatican sovereignty." The cables, released December 10-12, touched on a wide range of issues, from the Vatican's efforts to deal with leftist governments in Latin America to its recent moves to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the Catholic Church. One memo reviewed the Vatican's efforts to position itself as an intermediary with Iran in case an international crisis erupts and stated that in 2007 the Vatican had helped secure the release of British sailors detained in Iranian waters. The cables offered a rare glimpse at Vatican diplomacy in action, but through the lens of the U.S. policy experts who authored the reports. Most of the cables regarding the Vatican were written by officials of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, sometimes after personal meetings with Vatican diplomats. The Vatican issued a disclaimer December 11, saying the reliability of the cables must be evaluated carefully and with great prudence. "Naturally these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself, nor as exact quotations of the words of its officials," it said in a statement. The Vatican said publication of such secret and confidential material was a matter of "extreme seriousness." The U.S. Embassy to the Vatican repeated its condemnation of the release of classified State Department information and refused to comment on the content or authenticity of the information. The sex abuse scandal in Ireland was treated in a memo dated February 26, 2010, written by Julieta Valls Noyes, the deputy chief of mission at the embassy. She wrote that the Vatican had responded relatively quickly to the revelations of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin, in part because it had "learned key lessons" from the U.S. sex abuse scandal in 2002. "Vatican and Irish officials' first concern was for the victims," the cable said. But that concern was sometimes overshadowed by the public perception in Ireland that the Vatican was worried about "pettily procedural" matters, it said. Specifically, the Vatican was upset that the independent Murphy Commission that investigated the scandal had sidestepped diplomatic channels and tried to directly convene the Vatican nuncio, or ambassador, to answer questions and obtain other information from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican complained to the Irish Embassy, saying such requests must go through diplomatic channels, and in the end the government decided not to press the Vatican to reply, the cable said. It added that contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expected the sex abuse crisis to continue for several years, as new allegations from other Irish archdioceses come to light. The ongoing WikiLeaks situation has certainly stimulated conversation on both sides of the issue. By its nature, the political process depends on compromise. Very frequently that process comes about after many discussions, both written and spoken. The release or potential release in the future of sensitive documents like this will undoubtedly cause problems for diplomats focused on trying to resolve the many issues that occur in our complex world. I am not trying to downplay this issue in any way. But it has caused me to wonder what Jesus would have done in this situation. His leadership style was one of openness. He was most definitely a servant leader who did not ask his followers to do anything that He wouldn't do. In fact, He told them that they could not follow Him in His final endeavor, further illustrating His unique leadership style. I realize that this issue is very complex but if our leaders, both elected and otherwise, would truly govern with the best interests of the people in mind at all times, our world would be a better place. How we accomplish this is another thing altogether. Bringing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to those in leadership positions is a good start.