Irish MPs have blasted the refusal of Pope Benedict's diplomatic representative in Ireland to testify to a parliamentary panel probing Catholic Church co-operation with investigations into the church's cover-up of child abuse.
The papal nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal Giuseppi Leanza, told MPs in a letter that he would not answer questions from the parliament's foreign affairs committee.
"I wish to inform that it is not the practice of the Holy See that apostolic nuncios appear before parliamentary commissions," he wrote.
Mr Leanza has already faced heavy criticism for ignoring letters from two state-ordered investigations into how the church for decades suppressed reports of child abuse by parish priests and in Catholic-run residences for poor children.
Irish MP Alan Shatter, who is Fine Gael's spokesperson on children, said that it was "not only deeply regrettable but incomprehensible" that Mr Leanza would not explain the Vatican's non-co-operation with Irish investigations, given "it is acknowledged in Rome that members of the clergy in Ireland are guilty of abominable sexual abuse of children."