Prime Minister Enda Kenny made a speech denouncing the “dysfunction, the disconnection . . . of the Vatican today.’’
Vatican calls Ireland’s allegations ‘unfounded’
VATICAN CITY - In a strong rebuke to the Irish government, the Vatican said yesterday that it had never discouraged Irish bishops from reporting sexual abuse of minors to the police and dismissed assertions that it had undermined efforts to investigate such abuse as “unfounded.’’
The Vatican’s statement was the latest salvo in a tense diplomatic standoff with Ireland since the release in July of the latest in a series of scathing Irish government reports into sex abuse by priests and evidence of a widespread cover-up.
The Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland for consultations after the report was released, but he is now expected to return.
The report said the Vatican had encouraged bishops to ignore child-protection guidelines adopted by Irish bishops, including mandatory reporting of abuse to the civil authorities.
In its statement yesterday, the Vatican also criticized a speech to Parliament by Prime Minister Enda Kenny on July 20, in which he denounced the “dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican today.’’
The Vatican said it “understands and shares the depth of public anger and frustration at the findings’’ of the report, “which found expression in the speech’’ by Kenny. But it said both the report and the speech hinged on a “misinterpretation’’ of a key letter.
The July report found that clergy members in the rural diocese of Cloyne had not acted on complaints against 19 priests from 1996 - when Irish bishops had issued guidelines to protect children - to as recently as 2009.
The Cloyne Report was the fourth report into the pedophilia scandal in Ireland since 1994 but the first to point a finger directly at Rome.
It was followed by Kenny’s speech and a statement by Parliament saying that the Vatican’s intervention “contributed to the undermining of the child protection framework and guidelines of the Irish state and Irish bishops.’’
The Vatican said yesterday that that assertion was “unsubstantiated’’ and the result of a “misinterpretation’’ of a confidential 1997 letter to the bishops of Ireland by a former Vatican ambassador.
The ambassador wrote that he had “serious reservations’’ about the child-protection policies adopted by the bishops under intense public pressure in 1996, saying that they violated the due process of canon law.
The Cloyne Report said that letter “effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures’’ and “gave comfort and support’’ to priests who “dissented from the stated Irish church policy.’’
In its response yesterday, the Vatican said that taken out of context, the letter could generate “understandable criticism.’’ But it noted that Irish bishops defined the policies as an “advisory document’’ and had never asked the Vatican to incorporate them into canon law.
It added that bishops were “free to apply the penal measures of canon law to offending priests,’’ and that they had “never been impeded under canon law from reporting cases of abuse to the civil authorities.’’
The Vatican also suggested that the Irish government should share the blame for the sexual abuse cases in Ireland, where thousands of children were abused in state-run Catholic boarding schools from the 1930s to the 1990s.
The Vatican statement noted that Irish law still did not require mandatory reporting of suspected abuse by clergy to the police, even though the issue was debated in the mid-1990s.
As for Kenny’s accusation that the Vatican tried to “frustrate an inquiry,’’ the Vatican said the Cloyne Report “contains no evidence to suggest that the Holy See meddled in the internal affairs of the Irish State or, for that matter, was involved in the day-to-day management of Irish dioceses or religious congregations with respect to sexual abuse issues.’’