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Saturday 16 December 2017

State urges Vatican response on Cloyne

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter and JOHN DRENNAN

The Vatican and the Papal Nuncio treated allegations of child abuse against Irish priests with "contemptuous disregard", Justice Minister Alan Shatter told the Sunday Independent yesterday.

Mr Shatter called on the Vatican to "respond rapidly" to the "appalling and horrific" findings of the Cloyne report.

"The Vatican must now sign up and fully support guidelines about the welfare and safety of children. There is no ambiguity on this from the Government's point of view," he added.

Following on from Taoiseach Enda Kenny's historic attack on the Vatican and the Papal Nuncio, Mr Shatter said the Government would be forced to act if a satisfactory response from Rome didn't come in a timely manner.

"The focus of Fine Gael and of this Government is the welfare of children. We must get a rapid response from the Vatican. If we don't get that response, then the Government will have to act," he warned.

During his speech last Wednesday, Mr Kenny said the Cloyne Report exposed 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.

"And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism. . . the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Shatter's Fine Gael colleague, Charlie Flanagan, has sent a letter to the Oireachtas Justice Committee requesting that Bishop John Magee attend the committee to answer questions about the Cloyne scandal.

The request is likely to further ratchet up tension between Ireland and the Vatican in the wake of Mr Kenny's unprecedented critique of the Vatican's interference in Ireland's internal affairs.

Mr Flanagan, who is also the chairperson of the Fine Gael party, was the first to call for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, on the grounds that "if any foreign state connives to undermine Irish law, their position on Irish soil is untenable".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Flanagan admitted that until committees secured constitutional powers of compellability, "the committee cannot compel the bishop to attend".

But in a clear warning that the issue will be revisited if Bishop Magee does not attend, Mr Flanagan said: "What we are at is issuing an invitation . . . as of now."

Conservative independent Senator Ronan Mullen said he didn't subscribe to "almost the venom there is in parts of the [Taoiseach's] speech" where "an entire class of people is being written off".

As a politician himself he was "very, very conscious that some politicians are given to grandstanding".

The Government's unpre-cedented attack on the church has been met with mixed reaction from the general public, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Res-earch nationwide poll.

A narrow majority, 52 per cent, thought Mr Kenny's speech on the Cloyne Report has finally severed the links between church and state in Ireland, while 48 per cent felt it hasn't.

According to Quantum Research, a majority felt that Mr Kenny had articulated the feelings and outrage of the majority of Irish people and that this would lead to a sea-change in attitudes towards the authority of the church in Ireland.

They believed that the Government should now ensure that all levels of the clergy are subject to State law and not canon law so that such abuses would never happen again.

Those in the minority thought the power of the church was far too entrenched for one speech, no matter how forceful, to have that dramatic an effect.

Respondents pointed to church control of primary and secondary schools as well as hospitals as evidence of just how powerful the link between the religious and Irish society is.

Sunday Independent

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