Vatican rebuff for Canberra

Heath Gilmore

The Vatican’s refusal to hand over documents about child sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in Australia is poised to become a headache for the federal government.

The head of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, disclosed in a speech on Saturday [5 July] to a victims’ group he had personally written to the Vatican, seeking copies of all documents relating to complaints about abuse involving priests in Australia.

The Vatican has provided documents relating to two cases, but Justice McClellan wanted more information to find out how the church hierarchy in Australia, under the guidance or direction of the Vatican, responded to the allegations of abuse.

In a written response, the Vatican said the Holy See maintained the confidentiality of internal church deliberations, adding that it would be inappropriate to provide such documents.

Liberal MP Steve Irons, who attended Justice McClellan’s speech to the 14th anniversary of the Care Leavers Australia Network at the Bankstown Sports Club in south-west Sydney, said he would ask the government to become involved.