Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has accused the Vatican of adopting a “calculated, withering position” on abuse in the wake of a judicial report that accused the Holy See of being “entirely unhelpful” to Irish bishops trying to deal with abuse.
During a parliamentary debate, Mr Kenny said an independent judicial investigation into the handling of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne “exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago”.
“And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day,” he said.
The Cloyne Report, published last week, found that Cloyne Bishop John Magee, a former secretary to three popes, paid “little or no attention” to child safeguarding as recently as 2008. It said he falsely told the government that his diocese was reporting all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the civil authorities. It also found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisers by creating two different accounts – one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files – of a meeting with a priest-suspect.
The report accuses the Vatican of being “entirely unhelpful” to bishops who wanted to fully implement the 1996 guidelines, “Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response”.
Mr Kenny said that “this calculated, withering position” was “the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.”
He said that “the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who – like me – have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of Church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the state’s authorities.”
Referring to a tendency identified in the Cloyne Report to put the rights of accused clerics ahead of victims, Mr Kenny said “clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors” of abuse.
He said this “Roman clericalism must be devastating for good priests, some of them old, others struggling to keep their humanity, even their sanity, as they work so hard, to be the keepers of the Church’s light and goodness within their parishes, communities and the human heart.”
Mr Kenny said the Church needs to be “truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied”.
Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, rejected criticism of the Holy See in an interview with Vatican Radio. Emphasising that he was speaking in a private capacity, he said that much of the criticism failed to take into account the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI and other Church officials to prevent future cases of child sexual abuse and to address past cases with openness and determination.
He also said it was unfair to criticise the Church for failing to insist on mandatory reporting in a country that had not deemed it necessary to make it part of civil law.