Saturday 25 March 2017

Vatican rejects Kenny's Cloyne Report outburst

Official response says criticisms were 'unfounded'

DON LAVERY

The Government is to study carefully a "technical and legalistic" response from the Vatican, rejecting claims by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that it attempted to frustrate an inquiry into child sex abuse as "unfounded".

In a long awaited reply to Mr Kenny's highly critical statement in the Dail in July, the Vatican said the Cloyne Report itself contained no statement that would lend support to Mr Kenny's accusations. The Vatican said it wanted to make quite clear that it in no way hampered or interfered with the inquiry into child sex abuse cases in Cloyne.

"Furthermore, at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties," the statement said.

Mr Kenny is to reply later, but last night Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore acknowledged that the Holy See was "sorry and ashamed" for the suffering of Irish sex abuse victims and he said the sense of betrayal felt by Irish people, and clearly expressed by the Taoiseach, came about not only because of the nature of child abuse but because of the unique position which the Catholic Church enjoyed in this country. He stood over the view of the Cloyne Report that a 1997 letter from the then papal nuncio provided a pretext for some to avoid full co-operation with the Irish civil authorities.

The Vatican reply said that it also did not accept that it was somehow indifferent to the plight of those who suffered abuse in Ireland as Mr Kenny implied in his speech.

"In a spirit of humility the Holy See, while rejecting unfounded accusations, welcomes all objective and helpful observations and suggestions to combat with determination the appalling crime of sexual abuse of minors," it said.

In July, Mr Kenny -- in an unprecedented attack by an Irish politician on the Vatican referring to Cloyne -- said for the first time in Ireland a report into child sexual abuse "exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic, as little as three years ago, not three decades ago".

In remarks which stunned the Vatican, he said: "And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation."

Mr Kenny's speech followed the publication of the Cloyne Report which found that the Vatican had undermined attempts by Irish bishops to protect children from predator priests. Cloyne was the first report to squarely find the Vatican culpable in promoting the culture of secrecy and cover-up that allowed abusers to prey on more children.

The Cloyne Report based much of its accusations against the Holy See on a 1997 letter from the Vatican's 'ambassador to Ireland' to the country's bishops expressing "serious reservations" about their policy requiring bishops to report abusers to gardai.

A committee of Irish bishops had adopted the policy in 1996 under mounting public pressure as the first cover-ups came to light.

The Cloyne Report said the 1997 letter "effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed and gave comfort and support to those who . . . dissented from the stated official church policy."

In its response, the Vatican concurred that, taken out of context, the 1997 letter could give rise to "understandable criticism". But it said the letter had been misunderstood, that Cloyne's conclusions were "inaccurate" and that Kenny's denunciation was "unfounded".

The Vatican response noted that during the Nineties there was no law in Ireland requiring professionals to report suspected abuse to gardai.

"Given that the Irish Government of the day decided not to legislate on the matter, it is difficult to see how (the Vatican's) letter to the Irish bishops, which was issued subsequently, could possibly be construed as having somehow subverted Irish law or undermined the Irish state in its efforts to deal with the problem in question," the Vatican said.

The Cloyne Report had admonished the Vatican for diminishing the bishops' abuse policy as a mere "study document" in the 1997 letter, implying that it wasn't an official policy that needed to be followed.

The policy had been presented at the time as mandatory for all of Ireland's bishops.

The Vatican, however, said the policy was never a legally binding policy because the Irish bishops themselves had never sought to make it so by submitting it for official approval by the Vatican.

It also said accusations of interference by the Holy See are belied by the many reports cited as the basis for such criticisms.

The reports "contain no evidence to suggest the Holy See meddled in the internal affairs of the Irish State or for that matter was involved in the day-to-day management of Irish dioceses or religious congregations with respect to sexual issues".

However, Mr Gilmore said the Government's concerns were never about the status of church documents but about the welfare of children.

Yesterday the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin also responded. Asked by the Sunday Independent if he was now calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny personally to explain his Dail comments in which he accused the Vatican of attempting to frustrate inquiries into clerical abuse here, Dr Martin replied: "I said it does require explanation from somebody from the Government side. There was a reference to an attempt to undermine a State investigation three years ago. Now that's a very specific allegation and I think the truth requires [explanation], I'm not saying this again as a polemic. I deliberately limited my comment to three words, 'this requires explanation'."

Commenting on the future for child protection policy, Dr Martin stressed that the chief responsibility for this had to rest with the State.

"The primary responsibility for monitoring child safeguarding measures in any dimension of Irish society -- I repeat -- belongs with the Irish State," he said.

Sunday Independent

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