Kenny condemns Vatican response to allegations


The Vatican’s approach to clerical abuse inquiries in Ireland has been branded a disgrace by the Taoiseach today.

In the wake of the report into the Catholic Church’s response to allegations of abuse in the diocese of Cloyne, Enda Kenny warned new laws would not be stopped by canon rules.

The Taoiseach said the Government’s concerns must now be dealt with. “I think this is absolutely disgraceful that the Vatican took the view that it did in respect of something that’s as sensitive and as personal with such long-lasting difficulties for persons involved,” he said.

"The law of the land should not be stopped by a collar or a crozier," Mr Kenny said.

Tough new laws to force the disclosure of information on child sexual abuse are to be introduced in response to the Cloyne report. The withholding of information about serious offences against a child will be made a criminal offence, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced yesterday following the publication of the report on the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne.

Further measures, including a statutory child protection code, are to be announced by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald tomorrow.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore met papal nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza over the findings of the report today.

Speaking after the meeting, Dr Leanza said he was "very grateful" to Mr Gilmore for the meeting. "I think it has been a useful meeting . . . he has given me a copy of the report, and I will bring it immediately to the attention of the Holy See.

He reiterated the Catholic Church's "total commitment" to take "all necessary measures" to ensure the protection of children.

Mr Gilmore said the Vatican’s intervention in Irish affairs was “absolutely unacceptable” and “inappropriate”. He said he had told Dr Leanza that an explanation and response was required as to why the Vatican had told priests and bishops they could undermine Irish rules.

“I want to know why this state, with which we have diplomatic relations, issued a communication, the effect of which was that very serious matter of the abuse of children in this country was not reported to the authorities,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said the Vatican had conveyed a message that somehow it was “all right to evade responsibility” for reporting these matters to the Irish authorities.

Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan called for Dr Leanza to be expelled from Ireland.

Elsewhere, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Bishop John Magee should not be excluded from the prospect of a jail term if he is prosecuted as a result of investigations into the Cloyne report.

Bishop Gerard Clifford, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Armagh, this morning said evidence in the report showing that the church’s standing was prioritised over the victims of abuse was “the great disappointment”.

He said there was a new realisation that the problem of abuse is something the church cannot solve by itself and he welcomed Mr Shatter's comments about the introduction of child protection legislation.

The report found that the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, misled the minister for children by claiming the church’s guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with. It also found he falsely told the Health Service Executive (HSE) that allegations of abuse were being reported to gardaí.

In fact, two-thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to the Garda and no complaint was passed to the HSE during this period.

Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi issued an emphatic “no comment” when asked about the Cloyne report. He did not rule out making a comment at a later date, by which time the Holy See would have had a chance to assess the report fully.