Church and State clash over secrets of confession
THE Government last night stuck to its pledge to force priests to break the secrets of the confessional box and reveal abuse as tensions boiled over with the Vatican.
Relations between the Vatican and Ireland plunged to a new low as the Holy See's Ambassador was recalled to Rome to discuss the fallout from the Cloyne Report.
On top of the diplomatic row, a senior Vatican official dismissed the Government's plans to bring in a new law to compel priests to pass on details of abuse revealed in confession.
In the wake of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's scathing attack on the Vatican, Monsignor Giuseppe Leanza was summoned back to Rome so he could brief Pope Benedict XVI and senior church officials on details of the damning report which accused the Catholic hierarchy of covering up for paedophile priests.
The Government attempted to play down the significance of the move.
However, the Taoiseach will not be retracting any of his comments and sources believe the Vatican is now taking the request for a comprehensive response to the report seriously.
"The ball is very much in their court. It's become clear to them (the Vatican), that this administration has a different approach to previous administrations," a government source told the Irish Independent.
The Vatican deputy press officer Father Ciro Benedettini said: "The recall of the Nuncio denotes the seriousness of the situation and the Holy See's desire to face it objectively and determinedly.
"Nor does it exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions."
Diplomatic sources claimed the language in the statement was not as provocative as was being suggested and the Government was told at the weekend about the withdrawal of the Nuncio.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said the decision to recall the Papal Nuncio to the Vatican for consultations was a matter for the Holy See.
"The Government is awaiting the response of the Holy See to the recent report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne and it is to be expected that the Vatican would wish to consult in depth with the Nuncio on its response," he said.
Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, of the Vatican's Apostolic Penitentiary, dismissed suggestions priests should break the secrets of the confessional box and reveal details of abusing clergy.
"Ireland can approve all the laws it wants but it should know the church will never allow itself the obligation to betray the confessional to civil authorities.
"It is absurd to think that priests should be obliged to betray what is said in the confessional box," Archbishop Girotti said.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter reiterated his plan to bring in the new law on withholding information on crimes against children and vulnerable adults, which he said "will apply regardless of any internal rules of any religious grouping".
"The central focus of the Government is child protection."