Kenny defends criticism of Holy See ahead of visit


AHEAD OF a brief meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo this morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was yesterday unrepentant about his criticism last year of the Holy See’s response to the clerical sex abuse crisis in Ireland.

Complaining in the Dáil about the “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day”, Mr Kenny suggested that the Holy See had responded to the sex abuse crisis with the “gimlet eye of a canon lawyer”.

Asked by The Irish Times if he would feel “uncomfortable” when meeting the pope this morning for the first time since the July 2011 speech, the Taoiseach said that he was happy to meet him.

“I think that the matter that I raised in the Dáil in regard to the Catholic Church has been beneficial in the sense that it has brought about a new sense of reality. In my dealings with church authorities since then, there has been a realism and an understanding that the scars of the past have to be dealt with and dealt with fully and that we have to put in place foundations for the future which demonstrate the sense of values that we have for our country and for our people.

“All that is reflected in the decision I made on taking office in appointing a Minister for Children and also that this Government has also published and nominated a date for the referendum on child protection.

“It used to be that children were to be seen and not heard. Had they been heard and listened to, we might not have had many of the scars that I have referred to.”

The Taoiseach will meet the pope this morning as part of a group of delegates attending the Centrist Democrats International conference in Rome this weekend. Accordingly, his meeting with the pope will be very brief, restricted to a handshake and a greeting and leaving no time for an extended, one-on-one exchange.

Asked if he would be inviting the pope to visit Ireland, the Taoiseach replied: “It is a matter for the church authorities to invite him to Ireland . . . ”