In a development that the Catholic Church is quickly characterizing as totally not a big deal at all, the AP has obtained a 1997 Vatican letter forbidding Irish bishops from reporting priests suspected of child abuse to the police. Those who disobeyed were threatened with harsher treatment when the cases eventually reached church authorities. According to the New York Times, abuse victims have called the revelation "a smoking gun" that could be used as evidence in criminal cases against the church, which has denied ever impeding criminal investigations pertaining to child abuse.
The church has responded with its usual denial and willful obliviousness; Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi said, "It's not new. They’ve known about it in Ireland for some time." Which, as a total non-defense, would be hilarious if it weren't so ghoulish and maddening. "I mean yeah, your honor, I did kill that guy — what, you didn't know that?" Boy, is that religious organization venal. Let's hope this document gets them in exactly as much trouble as they deserve.