Vatican misled UN committee on compensation to Magdalene women

Submission was so inaccurate, Alan Shatter wrote to Rome seeking clarification

A building on Sean McDermott St in Dublin which is reported to have been used as a Magdalene laundry. Photograph: Eric Luke.

A building on Sean McDermott St in Dublin which is reported to have been used as a Magdalene laundry. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 01:00


Claims made by the Vatican in a submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) last December were so inaccurate, it prompted Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to write to Rome seeking clarification, The Irish Times has learned.

The Vatican asserted to the UNCRC that the four religious congregations that ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland were willing to pay part of a compensation scheme developed by the State for women who had been in the laundries.

However, two of the religious congregations concerned have since repeated their unwillingness to contribute to any compensation scheme for the women.


Criticism
When the UNCRC issued its final report on the Vatican’s child protection record last February, Rome came in for unprecedented worldwide criticism.

In its response, the Vatican said it was “heartened by the openness of the religious sisters to engage in discussions about issues of compensation and their willingness to pay a part of a compensation package developed by state authorities”.

But the four congregations involved have all publicly declined to contribute to the proposed compensation scheme.

A spokesman for Mr Shatter this week confirmed that the Minister had been so surprised by the Vatican statement he wrote to the congregations, asking whether, “based on the statement from the Holy See, they had reconsidered their position with regard to making a financial contribution to the scheme”.


‘Unchanged’
The Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity replied that their position was “unchanged”. The other two have not yet responded. The Minister has also written to the Vatican seeking “clarification” following its statement to the UNCRC.

It is thought the Vatican may have confused the compensation scheme with that for victims of institutional abuse in Ireland, to which religious congregations have contributed.

A church observer in Rome this week suggested this seemed to indicate that the Vatican submission to the UNCRC had been, at least partly, “a bit of a cut-and-paste job”.