BRIAN COWEN last night defended the Vatican’s failure to respond to requests from the Murphy inquiry for information on paedophile priests guilty of child abuse.
The Taoiseach insisted the Vatican had acted “in good faith” in the matter and gone through diplomatic avenues rather than deal directly with the probe.
Mr Cowen insisted Rome’s effective snub of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s inquiry was in keeping with international law concerning diplomatic channels.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the approach exposed the fact the Vatican did not appreciate the wider importance of the need to protect children from abuse. The Commission of Investigation into child abuse in Dublin revealed two letters requesting information from the Pope’s ambassador, the Papal Nuncio, were not answered.
A similar request to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith led to a note from the Vatican to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the commission was not going through the proper diplomatic procedures.
Mr Cowen described as “a matter of regret” that the Holy See didn’t give a substantive response but said the Vatican made sure the note was passed on to the commission because they didn’t want officials to feel they were ignoring the request.
“My belief is that the commission and the Holy See appears to have acted in good faith in this matter even if the best outcome was not achieved.
“It is of course regrettable that the failure to acknowledge either letter has given rise to the impression that the Holy See was refusing to co-operate with the commission,” he said.
Commission chairperson Judge Murphy had insisted her inquiry was independent of the Government and so was not party to the diplomatic channels.
Mr Gilmore expressed alarm at the revelation.
“Senior figures in the Catholic church failed in the past and, in respect of the note, appear to fail now, to grasp the urgency of the what was at stake. What was at stake was the widespread abuse of children over a long period,” he said.
Pressed to call for those named in the report who knowingly moved paedophile priests from parish to parish to be removed from positions of authority, Mr Cowen again stated that it was up to the individuals to “reflect” on the findings, adding that he “had no brief” for those who had failed in their duties to protect children.
Mr Gilmore called for the Government to introduce regulations so that people found to have not acted properly to reports of child abuse be stripped of their school patronage roles.
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