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Papal visit now looks doomed after Cloyne backlash hits Church

PROPOSALS for a Papal visit to Ireland next summer are likely to be shelved in the wake of the Cloyne report.

The State and the Catholic Church remained on a collision course after the chairman of Fine Gael called for the Pope's representative in Ireland to be expelled.

It was also suggested that the Government could close our embassy to the Holy See as public anger grows over the failure of Bishop John Magee to publicly apologise for the scandal.

Asked for his reaction to calls for the Papal Nuncio to be expelled, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the direct interference by another state in preventing the application in Ireland of child protection guidelines is unacceptable.

However, he stopped short of saying the Papal Nuncio should be expelled in light of the findings of the Cloyne Report.

"I very much understand the view expressed by Charlie Flanagan. I think there are a number of people who would have a great deal of sympathy with that view," Mr Shatter told Newstalk.

"I believe the first step is that the Papal Nuncio provides to the Tanaiste the answers that are being sought. My central concern in this is that we truly protect children," he added.

The minister said there was a great deal of shock and outrage in Government, and right across all political parties

Government plans to jail priests for up to five years if they fail to report information on child sex abuse, even if it was obtained in the confession box, put it in direct conflict with the traditional teachings of the Church. A Catholic Bishops spokesman said the seal of confession "places an onerous responsibility on the confessor/priest, and a breach of it would be a serious offence to the rights of penitents".

Separately, Fr PJ Madden of the Association of Catholic Priests, said the seal was "above and beyond all else" and could not be broken, even if a penitent confessed to a crime.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny backed the tough new laws to compel priests to report paedophiles to gardai.

"The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar," Mr Kenny said. He was replying to a question from journalists as to whether the traditional Catholic seal of the confessional would be exempted from the law.


He described as "absolutely disgraceful" the attitude of the Vatican to complaints of child sex abuse in the Cloyne diocese.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald will publish new guidance on child protection rules today, along with a HSE plan to implement the rules consistently across the State.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza was yesterday summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and told to get answers from the Vatican on damning revelations in the report that it allowed priests to ignore the law.

Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said he warned the Archbishop about the new law of five years jail for anyone who does not alert authorities about crimes against a child.

"I told him I believed that a response was required and I look forward to receiving it."

The hardline Government stance followed revelations in the Cloyne report that Bishop John Magee and the Vatican encouraged the concealment of child abuse allegations.

Pressure continued to mount today for Bishop Magee to come out of hiding and answer questions publicly about the Cloyne report. Some sources suggested he was visiting the southern states of the US.

He has not been seen at his home in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, in several weeks.