Taoiseach Enda Kenny today launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican, accusing Catholic hierarchy of putting the preservation of the church's reputation ahead of child rape victims.
In a damning assessment of Rome's attitude to paedophile priests, Mr Kenny claimed the latest inquiry into clerical abuse cover-ups has exposed a dysfunctional, elite hierarchy determined to frustrate investigations.
The Holy See was also warned that religion does not rule Ireland.
"For the first time in Ireland, a report into 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," he said.
"And in doing so, the Cloyne report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.
"The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'."
The Taoiseach's attack, which opened a special Dáil debate, followed the publication last week of the fourth major report in six years into the Church's cover-ups of clerical abuse.
Cloyne Diocese in Co Cork is the latest part of the Church to be exposed with former bishop John Magee - a Vatican aide to three Popes - singled out for misleading investigators and "dangerous" failures on child protection. His resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict last year.
On one occasion he was found to have written two different reports on an abuse allegation - one for Rome and one for diocesan records.
The Taoiseach went on to describe the Vatican of having a "calculated withering position" on clerical abuse, which he said was "the polar opposite of the radicalism, the humility and the compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded".
Mr Kenny said the Vatican's reaction to evidence from victims of abuse was to have it parsed and analysed by a canon lawyer.
"This is not Rome," he said. "Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane-smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world.
"This is the Republic of Ireland 2011.
"A republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities, of proper civic order, where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version of a particular kind of morality will no longer be tolerated or ignored."
The Taoiseach's condemnation came on the back of the first official comment from a Holy See spokesman to the Cloyne report.
On Vatican radio, Fr Federico Lombardi dismissed criticism and denied that Irish bishops were encouraged or advised to cover up clerical abuse or evade laws designed to protect children.
Fr Lombardi said he was not speaking on behalf of Pope Benedict and claimed the severity of criticisms against the Holy See was curious.
The Cloyne scandal goes as high as the Vatican after the inquiry criticised a 1997 letter from the Papal Nuncio, Rome's ambassador to Ireland, to Irish bishops.
The Cloyne report described the response to the clerics' plans to improve child protection policy as "entirely unhelpful".
"There is no reason to interpret that letter as being intended to cover up cases of abuse," Fr Lombardi said.
"Moreover, there is absolutely nothing in the letter that is an invitation to disregard the laws of the country."
The Government is awaiting an official response to the Cloyne scandal from the current Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza.
The Catholic Church has been left reeling from four reports into clerical child abuse in the last six years - the Dublin Archdiocese and the Ryan inquiry into industrial schools and homes in 2009, the Ferns Diocese in 2005 and just last week, Cloyne, which relates to abuse complaints and investigations as recent as 2008.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has called for internal reports on all Irish dioceses by the Church's own watchdog, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church, to be published as soon as possible. Mr Kenny backed his call.
Mr Kenny said clericalism had rendered some of Ireland's brightest and most privileged and powerful men either unwilling or unable to address the horrors in the Ryan and Murphy reports. He said this Roman clericalism must be devastating for "good priests".
The Government has committed to tough new child protection in the wake of Cloyne, including making it an offence to withhold information about crimes against children and introduce new vetting to allow "soft information" transfers.
Mr Kenny said: "As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne report, as Taoiseach 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."