The state may be acting unconstitutionally if it tries to inquire into how the Catholic Church applied its own disciplinary code in relation to clerical sexual abuse, according to the head of the Law School at Trinity College.

Gerry Whyte said that a clause in the Constitution would impose some uncertain limitations on the scope of any state tribunal of inquiry into the diocese of Ferns, but that it was open to the Catholic Church to conduct its own public inquiry if it so wished.

Mr Whyte said that the Government is bound by Article 44 of the Constitution, part of which states: "Every religious denomination shall have the right to manage its own affairs.....and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes."

Meanwhile a meeting is expected to take place on Thursday between the Minister for Health, Micheal Martin, and victims of the paedophile priest, Father Sean Fortune. It is believed that Fr Fortune's victims will argue for a full State inquiry into the matter. Mr Martin is, however, unlikely to agree before fully exploring the legal position with the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General.

It has also emerged that one of the victims of Fr Sean Fortune has written to the Pope asking him to release files pertaining to the dead cleric. Damian McAleenan said that he was concerned about the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey saying he fears the Bishop may be used as a scapegoat by the Church.

Mr McAleenan said his immediate concern was that the questions raised regarding Fr Sean Fortune be answered by the Church. He said that he did not understand how Fr Fortune was allowed to continue in office when it was clear that Bishop Comiskey knew he was a paedophile, as his statement revealed.