No reporting exemption for clergy, says Taoiseach

 

POLITICAL REACTION:THERE WOULD be no legal exemption of priests from reporting evidence of child abuse obtained in the confessional, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

In the most sharply critical language ever used by an Irish head of government in relation to the Catholic Church, Mr Kenny said the Vatican’s approach as revealed in the Cloyne report was “disgraceful”.

Asked if Government legislation would override the secrecy of the confessional, with priests being obliged to pass on evidence of child abuse obtained in that context, Mr Kenny said: “The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or by a collar, as we’ve often said before. In fact, I think I am on record as being the first public representative to say that bishops who were caught up in a situation where guilt applies here should be subject to the law of the land.”

He hoped the legislation to come from the Minister for Children and the Minister for Justice would “underpin all of this to make it absolutely beyond any doubt that in situations where these appalling activities took place that they be reported and that the law of the land apply”.

He added: “So, from that perspective, irrespective of the location or circumstance of the persons involved, this, as the Minister [for Children] said, is not about Ireland of long ago, it is about Ireland of contemporary times.

“And it has now got to be dealt with and this Government, in terms of our work in previous years dealing with soft information and the rights of children in setting up a senior ministry for children backed now by legislation from the Minister for Justice, will see that that happens.”

Asked what the Government would say to the Vatican on its record in relation to the report, Mr Kenny said: “I think this is absolutely disgraceful that the Vatican took the view that it did in respect of something that is as sensitive and as personal with such long-lasting difficulties for persons involved.

“We thought we had seen the end of this with the other reports and what came out of them but this one is of most recent times.”

He expected that Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, who met the papal nuncio yesterday, would “obviously speak very directly” to the Vatican representative.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that no one should be immune from the full rigours of the law in relation to the report.

Mr Martin was speaking on Highland Radio in Letterkenny after meeting Fianna Fáil members in Donegal to discuss the future role of the party.

He said what was truly shocking about the abuses exposed in the report was the absolute disregard for the national children’s guidelines and reporting procedures that the bishops had signed.

Mr Martin said reports had been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and he didn’t want to pre-empt what the DPP may decide.

He added: “No one should be immune from the full rigours of the law, particularly in terms of endangering the young and vulnerable to harm and to abuse. The full rigours of the law should be applied to everybody, irrespective of status of station in life.”

He said that after the report on Ferns, which exposed damage, abuse and hurt inflicted on children, the report was “all the more damning” and there was a lack of engagement by the Vatican.

Mr Martin said the church had put the “so-called name and reputation of the institution” before children. “This is contrary, totally, to the message of Christ,” he said.

Socialist Party TD Clare Daly called on Mr Gilmore to expel the papal nuncio “as a minimal response” to the Vatican’s role as highlighted in the report.

Her party colleague Joe Higgins said: “The fact that these crimes were perpetrated after 1996, by which time the church was supposed to have had child protection measures in place in the wake of the Brendan Smyth case, demonstrates that the public repentance by the hierarchy cannot be taken at face value.”