Vatican rejects claim that it blocked reporting of abuse


The Vatican has rejected criticisms by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that it sought to interfere with the reporting of clerical child abuse cases to gardaí and undermine the State’s child protection laws.

In its first formal response to criticisms made by the Government following the publication of the Cloyne report, the Vatican said it was "sorry and ashamed" for the sexual abuse of children in Ireland by priests.

However, it expressed significant reservations about the content of Mr Kenny’s speech in July when he said: “for the first time in Ireland, a report in child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.

“And in doing so, the Cloyne report excavates the dysfunction, elitism . . . the narcissism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

The Vatican statement says Mr Kenny’s allegations, which “he made no attempt to substantiate” were “unfounded”.

It said the claims were based on an incorrect reading of a 1997 Vatican letter expressing “serious reservations” about the Irish bishops’ 1996 policy requiring bishops to report abusers to gardaí.

The Holy See said it also does not accept the charge that “the Vatican intervened to effectively have priests believe they could in conscience evade their responsibilities under Irish law”.

"In this regard, the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne," the Vatican said in the statement.

"Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties."

In July, the Dáil passed a motion deploring the Holy See for "undermining child protection frameworks" after a letter to Irish bishops appeared to diminish Irish guidelines on reporting sex abuse by referring to them as "study guidelines".

The Vatican said today this accusation was “not supported by an objective reading of the Cloyne report, nor by the fact that the common practice of the Irish bishops was to apply the framework document”.

It also rejected accusations it diminished the policy’s seriousness, saying the bishops themselves never sought to make it binding.

"In a spirit of humility, the Holy See, while rejecting unfounded accusations, welcomes all objective and helpful observations and suggestions to combat with determination the appalling crime of sexual abuse of minors," the Vatican said.

The Holy See also takes issue with comments made by the Tánaiste in a meeting with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, on July 14th, at which he demanded a response to the findings of the Cloyne report.

The Vatican said today this claim was not supported by the Cloyne report and that it did not accept the charge that “the Vatican intervened to effectively have priests believe they could in conscience evade their responsibilities under Irish law”.

The Vatican’s statement focuses on the Government’s response to the Cloyne report, rather than on the findings of the report itself. The Holy See said this is because it does not want to encroach on matters where the civil authorities are considering possible criminal or civil prosecutions.