Vatican keen to avoid controversy


The Holy See has rejected the Government’s criticisms of it following the publication of the Cloyne report.

Speaking at the Vatican this morning, following the release of a communiqué from the Holy See to the Government in response to the Cloyne report, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the document sought to avoid being polemical.

Asked by The Irish Times if the Holy See had been offended by the Taoiseach’s categorization of the Vatican as dominated by a culture of “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism”, Father Lombardi said: “You won’t get me to make controversial statements on that.”

“If you read the reply, you will see that it tries to avoid being polemical, in no way (does it) say ‘shut up’ to the objections (of both the Cloyne Commission and the Government).”

“Rather, the report wants to be objective because it proposes itself as a contribution to future co-operation and dialogue with the Irish Government.”

When asked about the Taoiseach’s allegation in his July 20th Dáil speech, that the Holy See had attempted to “frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic”, Father Lombardi was categoric. 

“The Vatican is saying here that we have asked the Irish Government just what exactly the Taoiseach was referring to and they were not able to give us a response.”

“Therefore we feel that this criticism, namely that there was some sort of negative Vatican intervention (into the work of the Cloyne commission) simply is not true, it’s not the case at all.

“As far as we are concerned, this criticism is without foundation. Nor in his speech did he (the Taoiseach) say exactly what he was talking about.”

Whilst the spokesman said the “ample and serious” response issued by the Holy See today attempted to “acknowledge the seriousness of what has happened and also the mishandling of that”, he was nonetheless firm in underlining the Vatican’s rejection of the major criticisms from the report and the Government.

In particular, he defended former Nuncio, Archbishop Luciano Storero, arguing that his 1997 letter to the Irish bishops could in no way be seen as “having blocked the bishops from putting the terms of the framework document into effect”. 

Nor had this framework document been denied “recognitia” (official Holy See status) since such recognition “was never requested and therefore it never received a denial or a refusal from Rome”.

On more than one occasion, the Holy See spokesman acknowledged the “outrage” of Irish public opinion over clerical child sexual abuse while he pointed out that the importance of respect for and full compliance with civil law was repeated throughout the response. 

Father Lombardi concluded: “Read it (the response) carefully, the tone is important, the reply tries to avoid any possible polemical tone, any tone of irritation.”

“We understand the Taoiseach’s sense of outrage but there are two things that we consider mistaken – firstly, that we tried to hinder the enquiry, as far as we are concerned this simply didn’t happen and secondly the quote (from the Pope in his Dáil speech) is simply not relevant.

“We can all get quotes wrong, it happens to me, it happens to others but this quote (from then Cardinal Ratzinger) has nothing whatsoever to do with this issue.”