Tuesday 10 December 2019

Vatican spokesman rejects findings of Cloyne Report

Papal spokesman denies priests told not to report abuse claims

Grainne Cunningham, Fionnan Sheahan and Nick Pisa in Rome

THE Vatican yesterday broke its silence on the Cloyne scandal and denied that clergy were told not to report abuse claims.

But the claim by Pope Benedict XVI's spokesman was condemned by survivor support groups. They said it lacked credibility and branded it an insult to abuse victims.

Father Federico Lombardi directly contradicted the findings of the Cloyne Report and said it was "somewhat strange to see the Vatican criticised so heavily".

The Commission of Investigation into the Diocese of Cloyne, published last week, will be debated in the Dail tomorrow.

An all-party motion will condemn the Vatican's role in child protection.

The Cloyne Report was critical of a 1997 letter sent by the then Papal Nuncio to all Irish bishops advising them that their new framework document on child protection appeared "contrary to canonical discipline".

Claiming to be speaking in a personal rather than an official capacity, Fr Lombardi said: "There is no motive to interpret the letter in the way it has been, as an attempt to cover up cases of abuse. There is nothing in the letter which suggests not respecting the laws of the land."

Maeve Lewis, of the support group One in Four, said the response from Rome was "completely without substance" and "nothing short of scandalous".

"The Vatican has to accept that it has been involved in creating a culture for children to be abused," she said.

"Fr Lombardi's response was further evidence, if needed, that the Vatican's claim to prioritise the safety of children is completely lacking in credibility."

The 400-page Cloyne Report, which investigated how allegations against 19 priests were dealt with between 1996 and 2009, said the Vatican's response to the church guidelines was entirely unhelpful and gave comfort and support to those who dissented from the guidelines, describing it as "wholly unacceptable".

In his interview with Radio Vatican yesterday, Fr Lombardi said the church wanted "truth and a clean-up" of its operations in Ireland.

"This report is a new step in the long and arduous walk to find the truth," he said, adding that this was a journey the Holy See did not feel apart from.

During the interview he also recalled how last year Pope Benedict had apologised for the pain and suffering of those who had experienced abuse at the hands of priests in Ireland.

Last night, the Government announced that a new emergency placement service for children has been set up on foot of recommendations arising from a previous inquiry into clerical abuse, the Ryan Report.

Gardai around the country can now ring a single phone number to access foster care arrangements nationwide on an out-of-hours basis.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said 260 additional social workers were also in place.

Irish Independent

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