The Vatican fired back at Ireland today, rejecting claims made in a government report and in a subsequent speech by the prime minister that it discouraged bishops there from reporting sex-abuse cases by priests, reports the Irish Times. "The Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sex abuse," it said in a 24-page response. "Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties."
The Vatican said it was "sorry and ashamed" over the abuse of kids in Ireland at the hands of priests, but called the government allegations of a cover-up "unfounded." It says the charges are based on a "misinterpretation" of a 1997 Vatican letter that expressed "serious reservations" about a newly adopted policy requiring bishops to report abuse cases to police, notes the New York Times. The Vatican recalled its Irish ambassador after the report came out, though he is expected to return soon. (Read more Vatican stories.)