Taoiseach hits out at 'dysfunction' of Catholic Church

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil that the Cloyne Report on clerical sex abuse "excavates the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominates the Vatican today".

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil that the Cloyne Report on clerical sex abuse "excavates the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominates the Vatican today".

“The rape and torture of children were downplayed ... managed to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation,” Mr Kenny said in a special Dáil debate on today.

The Vatican’s reaction to evidence of victims was to have it parsed and analysed by a canon lawyer, the Taoiseach said.

This “calculated withering position” was “the polar opposite of the radicalism, the humility and the compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded”.

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.

Mr Kenny said this Roman clericalism must be devastating for “good priests”.

“But thankfully for them, and for us, 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 said he agreed with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin that the church needs to publish all similar reports as soon as possible.

Mr Kenny reiterated measures announced in the wake of the Cloyne Report’s publication, including making it an offence to withhold information about crimes against children.

“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,” Mr Kenny said.

Today's Dáil motion stated that they deplore “the Vatican’s intervention, which contributed to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the Irish State and the Irish bishops”.

Earlier today, a senior Vatican spokesman stated that Irish bishops were never encouraged or advised to cover up clerical abuse or evade laws designed to protect children.

In the first comment from Rome amid fall-out over former bishop John Magee’s “dangerous” mishandling of paedophilia allegations, Fr Federico Lombardi dismissed criticism of the Holy See.

The inquiry into Magee’s role at the head of the Cloyne Diocese until his retirement two years ago found he misled investigations and on one occasion wrote two different reports on a clerical abuse allegation – one for Rome and one for diocesan records.

Fr Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican, claimed the severity of criticisms against the Holy See was curious.

The controversy goes as high as the Vatican after the inquiry found a 1997 letter from the Papal Nuncio, Rome’s ambassador to Ireland, reacting to Irish bishops’ agreed plans to improve child protection policy. The Cloyne report described the response 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.”

Fr Lombardi suggested the Church had done nothing worse than the Irish State as rigorous child protection rules and mandatory reporting were not in law at the time.

He added: “The severity of certain criticisms of the Vatican are curious, as if the Holy See was guilty of not having given merit under canon law to norms which a State did not consider necessary to give value under civil law.”

He also said any objections from the powerful Rome-based Congregation for the Clergy to Irish bishops in the letter were understandable and legitimate.

In the long statement read out yesterday on Vatican radio, Fr Lombardi insisted that he was not speaking on behalf of Pope Benedict.

The spokesman also rebuked the respected Cloyne inquiry – headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy following her work uncovering clerical abuse and the failures of church authorities in the Dublin Archdiocese.

Fr Lombardi said: “In attributing grave responsibility to the Holy See for what happened in Ireland, such accusations seem to go far beyond what is suggested in the report itself (which uses a more balanced tone in the attribution of responsibility) and demonstrate little awareness of what the Holy See has actually done over the years to help effectively address the problem.”

Fr Lombardi did not mention John Magee, who has issued a statement apologising but not spoken in public.

He reiterated the Pope’s “intense feelings of grief and condemnation” and his “shock and shame” following the publication of the Dublin report in 2009.

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