'No evidence' letter eroded child protection


THE CLOYNE report provided “no evidence” to support its claim a 1997 Vatican letter circulated to Catholic bishops undermined the implementation of the Irish church’s child protection guidelines, according to the Holy See.

In an eagerly anticipated response to the Cloyne report, the Vatican also rejected the report’s view that the 1997 letter “gave comfort to those . . . who fundamentally disagreed with the policies” of the church’s framework document on child protection.

The commission which prepared the report on the handling of clerical child sex abuse in the diocese of Cloyne was also “incorrect” in stating the Irish bishops had sought recognitio for the framework document, as they had not done so.

The Vatican’s description of that document as a “study document”, in the 1997 letter, “was not a dismissal of the serious efforts undertaken by the Irish bishops to address the grave problem of child sexual abuse”, it said, but “was based on the explanations of its nature as provided by the Irish bishops and in the published text itself”.

In the lengthy 25-page response “to the Government of Ireland regarding the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne”, it described as “unfounded” statements made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil on July 20th last, following publication of the Cloyne report on July 13th.

It said the Taoiseach’s “accusation that the Holy See attempted ‘to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago’, which Mr Kenny made no attempt to substantiate, is unfounded”.

It noted how, “when asked, a Government spokesperson clarified that Mr Kenny was not referring to any specific incident. In fact, accusations of interference by the Holy See are belied by the many reports cited as the basis for such criticisms.”

Those reports, it said, “contain no evidence to suggest that the Holy See meddled in the internal affairs of the Irish State or, for that matter, was involved in the day-to-day management of Irish dioceses or religious congregations with respect to sexual abuse issues.”

It also pointed out that “the Cloyne report itself contains no statement that would lend support to Mr Kenny’s accusations”, and wished “to make it quite clear that it [the Vatican] in no way hampered or interfered in the inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in the diocese of Cloyne”.

The Vatican response also took issue with the Taoiseach’s use in the Dáil address of a quotation from Pope Benedict taken from his period as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Mr Kenny quoted then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as saying: “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.”

The Taoiseach had continued: “I am making it absolutely clear that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this Republic. Not purely, or simply or otherwise.”

The Vatican points out that the Taoiseach was quoting from the document Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, otherwise known as Donum Veritatis (The Gift of the Truth), published by the CDF on May 24th 1990, and signed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

That document, the Vatican response said, was “concerned with the theologian’s service to the Church community, a service which can also be of help to society at large, and not with the manner in which the Church should behave within a democratic society nor with issues of child protection, as Mr Kenny’s use of the quotation would seem to imply.”

It observed that “as a basic methodological principle, a quotation extracted from a given text can be correctly understood only when it is interpreted in the light of its context.”

The Vatican response rejected “accusations” by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, as well as motions passed by the Dáil and Seanad, which said Rome had “undermined” efforts by the Irish church and the Irish State to deal with clerical child sexual abuse.

The statement read: “The Holy See wishes to clarify that at no stage in the past did it make any comment about the Irish State’s child protection framework and guidelines, let alone seek to undermine them. The Holy See further observes that there is no evidence cited anywhere to support the claim that its ‘intervention’ contributed to their ‘undermining’.”

It rejected suggestions “that it was somehow indifferent to the plight of those who suffered abuse in Ireland, as Mr Kenny implied in his speech in Dáil Éireann”. Besides the internal legislative initiatives aimed at improving its child protection procedures, and listed in the response, it had also “devoted considerable attention to the Irish situation” through meetings with Irish bishops and the Pope’s Letter to the Catholics of Irelandin March 2010.

This Letter,it noted pointedly, “is nowhere mentioned in the Cloyne report”.

In conclusion, the response said the Vatican shared “the deep concern and anxiety expressed” in Ireland over clerical child sex abuse and recognised “the understandable anger, disappointment and sense of betrayal of those affected” by this and how it was “sometimes handled by Church authorities”. For this it reiterated “its sorrow”.

It reflected on the good relations which have prevailed between Ireland and the Vatican and reaffirmed its commitment “to constructive dialogue and co-operation with the Irish Government, naturally on the basis of mutual respect”, so all “may work together to ensure that the church and, indeed, society in general will always be safe for children and young people”.