Vatican response: extracts from Holy See statement


On the Irish church’s 1996 Framework Document on child protection, and a 1997 letter by former nuncio, Archbishop Luciano Storero describing it as “merely a study document”

“While the Irish Bishops did engage in consultations with the Congregation for the Clergy about the contents of the Framework Document, the Irish Bishops Conference did not take the canonical vote required by canon and never sought the recognition of the Holy See for it....

“... Since the Irish Bishops did not choose to seek recognition for the Framework Document, the Holy See cannot be criticised for failing to grant what was never requested in the first place.”

“The lack of recognitio did not in any way undermine the application of the Framework Document.”

“ forbidding reporting or in any way encouraging individuals, including clerics, not to co-operate with the Irish civil authorities, let alone disobey Irish civil law.”

“. . . the reservations expressed by the Congregation for the Clergy about mandatory reporting were in line with those expressed at the time by various professional groups and individuals in Ireland, including members of the Irish Government.”

On the Taoiseach’s speech

“The Holy See understands and shares the depth of public anger and frustration at the findings of the Cloyne report, which found expression in the speech made by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, in Dáil Éireann on July 20th, 2011. However, it has significant reservations about some elements of the speech.”

“... the 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.”

“The Cloyne report itself contains no statement that would lend support to Mr Kenny’s accusations.”

“. . . the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or interfered in the inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in the Diocese of Cloyne. Furthermore, at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority”

On the Tánaiste’s comments, as well as Dáil and Seanad motions

“. . . the Holy See does not accept the charge that ‘the Vatican intervened to effectively have priests believe they could in conscience evade their responsibilities under Irish law’.

“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’.”

“The sexual abuse of children is a crime. It is a crime in civil law; it is a crime in canon law.”

“The Holy See does not accept 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.”

“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.”

On being misquoted

“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.”

In his Dáil speech, the Taoiseach said Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said: “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the church.”

The Vatican statement put the quote in its context, quoting from Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 24th, 1990, and signed by Josef Ratzinger as cardinal: “In accordance with the will of her founder, she is organised around a hierarchy established for the service of the Gospel and the People of God who live by it.

“After the pattern of the members of the first community, all the baptised with their own proper charisms are to strive with sincere hearts for a harmonious unity in doctrine, life and worship (cf. Acts 2:42).

“This is a rule which flows from the very being of the church. For this reason, standards of conduct, appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy, cannot be purely and simply applied to the church.

“Even less can relationships within the church be inspired by the mentality of the world around it (cf. Rom 12:2).

“Polling public opinion to determine the proper thing to think or do, opposing the Magisterium (teaching authority of the church) by exerting the pressure of public opinion, making the excuse of a ‘consensus’ among theologians, maintaining that the theologian is the prophetical spokesman of a ‘base’ or autonomous community which would be the source of all truth, all this indicates a grave loss of the sense of truth and of the sense of the church.