Vatican officials were offended by requests for information from an Irish inquiry into paedophile priests, according to US embassy cables released by Wikileaks.
The diplomatic missives claim that some in the Catholic Church hierarchy believed the Irish government "failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations".
They also suggest requests from last year's Murphy Inquiry for information relating to the sexual and physical abuse by clergy had "offended many in the Vatican".
The Vatican press office declined to comment but described the leaks as a matter of "extreme gravity."
The cable released on the Wikileaks website was entitled "Sex abuse scandal strains Irish-Vatican relations, shakes up Irish church, and poses challenges for the Holy See".
According to the deputy to the Irish ambassador to the Holy See, the Irish government gave in to Vatican pressure and granted church officials immunity in exchange for testifying, a US diplomat wrote in one of the cables.
Ambassador Noel Fahey apparently told US diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes that the sex abuse scandal was a tricky one to manage.
The Irish government wanted "to be seen as co-operating with the (Murphy) investigation" because its own education department was implicated, it was claimed in the leaked cables. They suggest politicians were reluctant to press Vatican officials to answer the investigators' queries.
The cables also claimed Vatican officials believed Opposition politicians were "making political hay" from the scandal by publicly calling on the Irish government to demand a response from Rome after the report was published last November.
The Vatican press official statement said the WikiLeaks cables should be evaluated with "reservations" and "prudence," and not be taken as an "expression" of the Holy See.