The Catholic Church has a poor record on protecting children from sexual abuse, and on holding perpetrators to account. In recent years, a series of legal cases across the world – the United States, Canada, and Ireland, among others – have sought redress for these crimes, which were allegedly covered up by the church establishment.

The latest case is in Australia, where Justice Peter McClellan, the head of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, personally wrote to the Vatican to request copies of all documents relating to complaints about abuse by priests in Australia. The Vatican has provided documents relating to two cases, but has refused to hand over information on how church authorities responded to allegations of abuse. The Vatican informed the commission that “requests for all information regarding every case – which include requests for documents reflecting internal ‘deliberations’ – are not appropriate”. The status of the Holy See as an independent state means that it cannot be compelled by any government to provide the documents

Lawyers noted that the Catholic Church has, in the past, behaved similarly in Ireland. Leonie Sheedy, founder and chief executive of Care Leavers Australia Network, a support group for victims, told reporters: "I'm not surprised ... I feel like the Catholic Church believes it is above the laws of Australia and probably the world.”

You can read more about the story over at ABC.

UPDATE: Pope Francis gave his strongest apology yet for the sexual abuse of children by priests, condemning not only abusers but those who covered up:

"I beg your forgiveness … for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk."

It does not appear that this has any impact on the release of files, though.