Friday 24 November 2017

It’s Church V State as Kenny refuses to back down

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank McGrath
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has urged parents to take control of Irish schools from the Church. Photo: Damien Eagers
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi as the Holy See issued a response to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's comments in July

Shane Hickey, Fionnan Sheaha, Tom Brady and reporters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was today refusing to back down from his claims that church authorities frustrated investigations into child sex abuse.

Relations between the Government and the Vatican hit a new low after the authorities in Rome claimed that the Cloyne Report did not back up assertions made by Mr Kenny in his landmark speech to the Dail in July.

The content of the speech is under fresh scrutiny after the Vatican posted a detailed riposte at the weekend -- but the Taoiseach will not be backtracking on his comments.

"There is no expectation there is going to be an imminent statement," his spokesman said last night.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has urged parents to take control of Irish schools from the Church.

He said he wants to mobilise 22,000 mothers and fathers nationwide to stand for boards of management when places are filled next month.

It would mean that parents of children in national schools will replace the positions traditionally taken by parish priests and their nominees.

“In terms of the school board elections for this October we are dealing with the present educational landscape as it is, and I am not trying to change by suggesting there should be some form of subversive takeover of boards,” he told the Daily Mail.

“We are instead trying to make parents aware that (a) they have a constitutional right and (b) they have a legislative opportunity as parents to have a representative on the board of management,” he said.

In its first response to the speech, the Vatican said it had in no way hampered or interfered with the inquiry into abuse cover-ups in the Cloyne diocese.

It said Mr Kenny failed to substantiate the allegation he had made in the Dail.

And the Vatican stated that at no time did it "seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties".

It added: "In particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted 'to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago', which Mr Kenny made no attempt to substantiate, is unfounded."

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin backed the Vatican in calling for Mr Kenny to clarify his remarks.

"There is no evidence presented in the Murphy Report to substantiate this, the Holy See could find no evidence and the Department of the Taoiseach's office said that the Taoiseach was not referring to any specific event. This merits explanation," he said.

The Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, did not reference the allegations by the Taoiseach in a statement on the matter. He said people should read the response of the Holy See for themselves.

In response to the Vatican statement, Mr Kenny said he did not regret making the Dail speech. But he said he would not comment on the Vatican's statement until he had studied it in more detail.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter also said it was important 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 the 25-page statement.

The controversy stemmed from the aftermath of the Cloyne Report, which was released in July.


Opening a Dail debate a week after the report's publication, Mr Kenny hit out at the Vatican and accused the church of downplaying the rape and torture of children.

Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's press office, rejected Mr Kenny's Dail comments.

"We do not understand what was in the mind of the prime minister," he said.

The Vatican became embroiled in the scandal after revelations about a 1997 letter, from the then papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Luciano Storero, to Irish bishops.

It was sent a year after reporting guidelines were enforced to enhance child protection.

The correspondence stated that the policy was "merely a discussion document" and that the Vatican had serious moral and canon reservations about mandatory reporting of clerical abuse.

But the Vatican said that, taken out of context, the comments in the letter to Irish bishops "could be open to misinterpretation, giving rise to understandable criticism".

Irish Independent

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