Holy See keeps its distance from Irish abuse problem


VATICAN RESPONSE:NOT FOR the first time, the Holy See yesterday formally attempted to keep its distance from an Irish clerical sex abuse problem.

Responding to the publication of the Dublin diocesan report, Vatican senior spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi told The Irish Times that matters such as these are handled by the local church rather than by the Holy See.

“With regard to matters like this, the line is very clear. We leave all comment to the local church involved . . .”

In a section of the report, “Documents Held by Rome”, the commission appears to imply that full co-operation was not forthcoming from the Holy See. In particular, the commission reports that requests for information made to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and to the Papal Nuncio in Dublin went unanswered.

The report states that rather than contacting the commission, the CDF contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs, saying that the commission had not gone through “appropriate diplomatic channels”.

Fr Lombardi argued such an explanation was perfectly normal since routine diplomatic practice requires that any outside requests made to the governance of the Holy See, in this case, the CDF, would pass through diplomatic channels – in this case, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and the Irish Embassy to the Holy See in Rome. “It’s obvious, if you are looking for official documents from the Vatican then you have to go through the normal diplomatic channels,” he said.

Vatican observers argue the same “diplomatic” reasoning would apply to the lack of a reply from the Papal Nuncio in Dublin. He, too, as the Vatican’s ambassador in Ireland, cannot respond directly to a request from an albeit independent Irish body.

Vatican analysts point out that while the Catholic Church is very centralised when it comes to issues like church appointments, it is contrastingly decentralised when it comes to day-to-day, local church financial administration.

Put simply, this means that bishops are appointed in Rome but damages are paid in Dublin.

For the nuncio or indeed the CDF to respond directly to the commission might have implied acceptance of a certain Vatican responsibility or indeed culpability with regard to Irish affairs.

As for the overall findings, Fr Lombardi was reluctant to add any further comment: “In all cases like this, it is not appropriate for Rome to comment, rather that is for the local bishop. In the case of Dublin, we have an excellent archbishop and he knows what has to be said.”