Why is Vatican so miffed at reaction to Cloyne report?


OPINION: SO, ROME is miffed at “excessive reactions” in Ireland following publication of the Cloyne report. This State has spent millions unearthing what has been available to Rome all along. In October 2005, there was the Ferns report, costs to date: €2.3 million.

In May 2009, the Ryan report, estimated costs to date: at least €126 million. In November 2009, the Dublin report: costs to date €3.6 million. In July 2011, the Cloyne report: costs to date €1.9 million. Total costs so far of the four statutory inquiries? €133.8 million, with more to come.

None of this would have been necessary had the Catholic Church here and in Rome co-operated fully in establishing the truth. Instead, those that could be were dragged, kicking and screaming, into disclosing what they desperately wanted to keep hidden. So, in Ferns, abuse files on five further priests which should have been presented to the inquiry remained unavailable until an accidental discovery in the summer of 2005 – when the Ferns draft report was already completed. A “regrettable error on the part of the diocese . . .” said apostolic administrator to Ferns diocese, canon lawyer, barrister-at-law and Dublin auxiliary bishop Eamon Walsh. Four years later, Rome declined his resignation.

On May 15th, 2009, five days before the Ryan report was published, in a letter to the redress board, the Christian Brothers said the congregation “totally rejects any allegations of systemic abuse . . . or that boys were inadequately fed or clothed . . . and vehemently repudiates all unsubstantiated allegations of sexual abuse . . .” When that letter was published in this newspaper on June 3rd, 2009, a Christian Brothers statement “reflected their shame that as recently as five days prior to publication of the [Ryan] report their responses were still shamefully inadequate and hurtful”.

In January 2008, the former archbishop of Dublin Cardinal Desmond Connell went to the High Court to prevent his successor giving documents to the Murphy commission. Later, he withdrew the action.

In 2008, Bishop John Magee of Cloyne and Msgr Denis O’Callaghan lied to the church’s child protection watchdog about abuse there.

This formidable desire to hide the truth on the part of senior clergy in Ireland by lies, damn lies and mental reservation was not rooted in any peculiar aversion on their part. It rested entirely on what they understood was required of them by Rome.

Yet in his March 2010 pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI told the bishops that “some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously”, when it came to child protection. Not a word about Rome’s role in any of this.

Not a word about Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos who was responsible for the 1997 letter to the Irish bishops dismissing their 1996 Framework Document as “merely a study document”. Which letter, the Cloyne report said, “gave comfort and support” to those who “dissented from the stated official Irish church policy” on child protection.

In 1999, when the Irish bishops were visiting Rome they were reminded by a Vatican official they were “bishops first, not policemen” when it came to reporting clerical child sex abuse.

But apologists for Rome insist all changed in May 2001 when then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent two letters to every Catholic bishop in the world. In Latin. One insisted that both be kept secret. The other directed that all clerical child sex abuse allegations “with a semblance of truth” be sent to the congregation and it would decide whether they be dealt with at diocesan or Vatican level.

Yet, as current chancellor of Dublin’s archdiocese Msgr John Dolan told the Murphy commission, this policy “was subsequently modified as Rome was unable to deal with the vast numbers of referrals”.

The Cloyne report continues: “The position now, he [Msgr Dolan] said, is that all cases brought to the attention of the archdiocese before April 2001 and which were outside prescription . . . were not going to be dealt with by the CDF. It was up to the bishop to apply disciplinary measures to the management of those priests.”

In effect, the Irish bishops were back where they were before 2001. As Murphy reported: “Victims have expressed disappointment that neither the Framework Document nor its successor, Our Children, Our Church (2005), received recognition from Rome, thus leaving both documents without legal status under canon law.”

This, Murphy found, “was in direct contrast to the approach adopted by the Holy See to the request of the American Conference of Bishops”. The truth is Rome tied the hands of those Irish bishops and religious superiors who wanted to address the abuse issue properly.

Yet, Rome did not even acknowledge correspondence from the Murphy commission in September 2006. Instead it complained the commission did not use proper channels. So, in February 2007, the Murphy commission wrote to then papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto requesting he forward “all documents in his possession relevant to the commission”. He did not reply.

So, in early 2009, it wrote to current nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, (in situ since April 2008), enclosing a draft of its report for comment. He did not reply.

The nunciature in Dublin has been the conduit for truthful clerical child abuse reports to Rome, while Archbishop Leanza was personally involved in talks which led to Bishop Magee standing aside at Cloyne in February 2009. So, the Murphy commission asked him to “submit to it any information which you have about the matters under investigation”. He felt “unable to assist” it “in this matter”.

So, Rome is miffed? So . . .?

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