The Vatican and the Irish state are at loggerheads in the aftermath of the shocking report into child abuse in the Cork diocese of Cloyne.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has branded the Vatican’s approach to clerical abuse enquiries as a ‘disgrace’.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has warned the Pope’s representative in Ireland, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, that he expects a swift response to questions raised by the official enquiry.
Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan, a senior member of the government coalition, has demanded that the Papal Nuncio be expelled from Ireland in the wake of the Cloyne report.
And Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin has warned that the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr John Magee, should not be excluded from the threat of jail if prosecutions follow in relation to incidents outlined in the report.
Dr Magee is currently in hiding in America but is under pressure to return to Ireland.
Prime Minister Kenny has also warned that Canon law will not be allowed to supersede state law after introducing legislation which makes it mandatory for priests to reveal details of child abuse, even if they become known in the confessional box.
Priests who withhold information will be jailed for up to five new years under the tough new laws which contravene Canon law where a priest can be excommunicated for revealing confession box secrets.
“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,” said Prime Minister Kenny.
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a collar or a crozier.”
Papal Nuncio Dr Leanza deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore in the wake of the publication of the Cloyne report.
Gilmore told the Papal Nuncio that Vatican’s intervention in Irish affairs was ‘absolutely unacceptable’. He also demanded an explanation as to why the Vatican had told priests and bishops they could undermine Irish rules in relation to clerical abuse of children.
“I want to know why this state, with which we have diplomatic relations, issued a communication, the effect of which was that very serious matter of the abuse of children in this country was not reported to the authorities,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Gilmore.
“The Vatican had conveyed a message that somehow it was alright to evade responsibility for reporting these matters to the Irish authorities.”
Papal Nuncio Dr Leanaza said: “I am very grateful to Mr Gilmore for the meeting. I think it has been a useful meeting. He has given me a copy of the report, and I will bring it immediately to the attention of the Holy See.
“I reiterate the Catholic Church’s total commitment to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of children.”
The Cloyne report outlines how Bishop Magee misled the government by claiming the church’s guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with.
It also reports that he falsely told the Health Service that allegations of abuse were being reported to police when the reality was that two-thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to either police or the health service.
Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi issued an emphatic ‘no comment’ when asked about the Cloyne report but did not rule out making a comment at a later date when the Holy See has fully assessed the report.