Vatican rejects Govt criticism after Cloyne

Monday 05 September 2011 12.19
Holy See denies it sought to interfere with Irish Civil Law
Holy See denies it sought to interfere with Irish Civil Law

The Vatican has rejected Taoiseach Enda Kenny's claim that it interfered with Irish law or undermined attempts to develop a child protection framework within Irish dioceses.

In a 25-page statement published today the Vatican rebutted remarks made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil in July, which came after the publication of the report into abuse in the diocese of Cloyne.

The Cloyne Report scrutinised how both Church and State authorities handled complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse made against 19 priests working under Bishop John Magee in the Co Cork diocese between 1996 and 2009.

It suggested that a letter from the then Papal Nuncio gave comfort to those in the church who were opposed to the so-called Framework Document, which attempted to create a policy framework for handling abuse allegations.

The report also claimed that the Vatican response could "only be described as unsupportive especially in relation to the civil authorities."

After its publication Mr Kenny commented on its findings in the Dáil and castigated what he termed "the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism" in the Vatican.

However the response from the Vatican said "it has significant reservations that the speech made by Enda Kenny... in particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic, is unfounded."

The statement added that the Holy See in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Furthermore, the Vatican said that at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish Civil law or impeded the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.

The Vatican also disputed the claim that Irish bishops sought but failed to obtain recognition from Rome for the Framework Document.

It said Irish bishops did not, under Canon Law, seek 'recongnito' for the Framework Document, therefore the Holy See cannot be criticised for failing to grant what was never requested in the first place.

However, according to the Vatican, this would not have prevented the application of the Framework Document in individual dioceses.

Kenny does not regret Dáil speech

Following the publication of the Vatican document, the Taoiseach said he would not be making a detailed statement until he has read and studied it.

However, Enda Kenny said he did not regret his Dáil speech criticising the Vatican in the wake of the Cloyne Report.

Speaking in the Curragh, Mr Kenny said Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had asked the Papal Nuncio to respond on behalf of the Vatican.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, also speaking at the Curragh, said it was important that the Government gave detailed consideration to the Vatican's response.

He said he was not going to pre-judge that response until he had an opportunity to read it.

In a statement Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said it was only possible to give an initial reaction at this time but said that "some of the argumentation advanced by the Holy See... is very technical and legalistic.

"The Government's concerns were never about the status of church documents but rather about the welfare of children.

Referring to the Framework Document, he said he remained of the view that the letter from the then Papal Nuncio "provided a pretext for some to avoid full cooperation with the Irish civil authorities."

Abuse victims and church leaders react

The group 'One in Four' has said it is very disappointed by the Vatican's response but 'not terribly surprised'.

Executive Director Maeve Lewis said the statement once again shows the Vatican's refusal to accept any level of responsibility for the “culture that pertained in the Catholic Church in Ireland and indeed throughout the world, where the safety of children took much less priority than the status and reputation of the church”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Lewis said: "I think, in their castigation, really, of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, I think it shows their profound misunderstanding of the depths and level of anger and frustration shared by Irish Catholics at the church failures"

Abuse victim Andrew Madden said the Vatican response showed that "every effort" was made "to continue to find ways for the Holy See to absolve itself of any responsibility" for the issue of sexual abuse by priests.

Abuse survivor and campaigner Marie Collins said the Vatican response showed the importance of mandatory reporting of abuse becoming law in Ireland.

However, Cardinal Sean Brady welcomed the publication of what he called the comprehensive reply of the Holy See to the Irish Government.

He said it conveyed the profound abhorrence of the Holy See for the crime of sexual abuse and its sorrow and shame for the terrible suffering which the victims and their families had endured within the Church.

He said he believed it would contribute to the healing of survivors of sexual abuse by priests.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the response was detailed and comprehensive and he hoped it would be understood and not be an "occasion just for added polemics."

He said while some had argued that the intervention of the then Papal Nuncio had created the opportunity to ignore guidelines, he thought the intervention did "not in fact impede the Irish Bishops."

He said there were some people who regarded only their own views and would take no note of any documents or even approved papal norms.

"These people may be few but the damage they caused was huge."