Vatican Calls Claims of Irish Interference 'Unfounded'

The Vatican forcefully denied undermining efforts by Irish bishops to protect children from sexual abuse in an 11,000-word response to the findings of an Irish judicial panel on the handling of abuse allegations in the Diocese of Cloyne. According to the response, released on Sept. 3, the Vatican recognizes “the seriousness of the crimes” detailed in the Cloyne Report and “has sought to respond comprehensively.”

“The Holy See is sorry and ashamed for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure within the church of Jesus Christ, a place where this should never happen,” the response said.

Advertisement

The Cloyne Report, issued on July 13, had provoked harsh criticism of the Vatican from Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny. In a row that shows little sign of abating, Kenny said he did not regret his accusation on July 20 before the Irish parliament that the Vatican attempted to “frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago.” Kenny said then that the report “excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

The Vatican communiqué described Kenny’s claim of interference as unfounded. The Vatican also said it “understands and shares the depth of public anger and frustration at the findings of the Cloyne Report,” saying those feelings were reflected in the prime minister’s speech. “In this regard, the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or interfered in the inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in the Diocese of Cloyne. Furthermore, at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.”

The Cloyne Report charged that then-Bishop John Magee of Cloyne paid “little or no attention” to safeguarding children as recently as 2008. But the report also accused the Vatican of being “entirely unhelpful” to Irish bishops who wanted to implement stronger norms for dealing with accusations and protecting children.

The Vatican said the report “brought to light very serious and disturbing failings in the handling of accusations of sexual abuse by children and young people by clerics,” but it said the local bishop and his vicar general were to blame. The Vatican response emphasized three points: that the Congregation for the Clergy’s concerns with the Irish bishops’ 1996 child protection guidelines did not nullify the guidelines nor prevent local bishops from adopting them in their dioceses; that church officials, including bishops, are required to follow their nation’s civil laws regarding mandatory reporting of crimes; and that the sexual abuse of children is a crime both in civil law and in church law.

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore expressed disappointment on Sept. 5 with the Holy See’s response. “There was the most horrific sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clerics,” he said. “The Catholic Church did not deal with that as it should have dealt with it. Let’s not be distracted. Let’s not miss the point.”

In its response, the Vatican showed cautious openness to proposed legislation in Ireland making it a criminal offense to withhold information about child sexual abuse but specified that information conveyed within the seal of the confessional would have to remain secret.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 13 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life could be helpful as the church grapples with issues like migration, health care and even taxes, some bishops say.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 17, 2017
Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany in April 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
“What we need to do is just continue to live out the challenge of ‘Laudato Si’,’ which is to examine our relationship with the earth, with God and with each other to see how we can become better stewards of this gift of the earth.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 17, 2017
Hipsters love the authentic, the craft and the obscure—which is exactly why Catholicism, in its practices and its aesthetic, is perfectly suited for them.
Zac DavisNovember 17, 2017
In response to a query from America, Steve Bannon said, “The daily examen has become a tool for me to lead a better, more fulfilled life.”
James T. KeaneNovember 17, 2017