THE Vatican’s response to the rape and sexual abuse of Irish children by Catholic clergy has been “disgraceful”, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted.
In a strongly worded rebuke for the Church’s attitude towards inquiries such as the one that uncovered widespread child abuse in Cloyne, Mr Kenny warned Canon Law conventions would not be allowed to prevent tough protection laws coming in.
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a collar or a crozier,” he said.
Mr Kenny confirmed that priests would still have a duty under law to divulge information given to them in the confession box about child abuse.
Mr Kenny said the obligation to go to the Garda with such information would apply to all: “irrespective of the location or circumstance of the persons involved”.
The Taoiseach expressed anger at the way Church authorities in Rome had handled the situation.
“I think this is absolutely disgraceful that the Vatican took the view that it did in respect of something that’s as sensitive and as personal, with such long-lasting difficulties, for persons involved,” he said.
The Taoiseach stressed that the catalogue of abuse uncovered in Cloyne could not be brushed aside as belonging to a different era.
“This is not about Ireland of long ago; it is about Ireland of contemporary times,” he added.
Mr Kenny revealed he had been personally affected by the cases of abuse revealed in the Cloyne report.
“I am absolutely upset about what I read in the report. The fact that guidelines were in place and were not adhered to and the devastation wreaked on so many lives speaks for itself,” he said.
Mr Kenny said he had led calls for a tougher line to be taken in the face of the unwillingness of Church authorities to comply fully with investigations. Tough new laws to force the disclosure of information on child sexual abuse are to be introduced in response to the Cloyne report.
Under those proposed new laws, the withholding of information about serious offences against a child will be made a criminal offence with those breaking it liable to prosecution.
Mr Kenny called on the Vatican to reiterate the view that civil law should always be followed by clergy as well as other citizens.
And the Taoiseach hinted that Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore may consider the future of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See.
Mr Kenny’s remarks are in stark contrast to those of his predecessor as taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who was often accused of taking too soft a line with the Vatican in the wake of the Ryan report and the inquiry into abuse in Dublin.
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