A senior Catholic Church leader has slammed the Irish government’s determination to force priests to reveal child sex abuse claims made in confessional boxes as the row between Ireland and the Vatican intensifies.
As Papal Nuncio to Ireland Monsignor Giuseppe Leanza prepares to return to Rome on the orders of the Pope, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has engaged in another war of words with the Holy See.
Kenny and his Justice Minister Alan Shatter have again pledged to force priests to reveal anything they hear in the confessional box connected with child sex abuse.
Their vow to crack down on the church’s attitude to clerical sex abuse allegations comes in the wake of the damning Cloyne Report.
Monsignor Leanza has now been recalled to Rome by the Pope to discuss the report into abuse in the Cork diocese.
And a top Vatican theologian has dismissed the government’s confessional proposal as ‘absurd’.
Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, has slammed the suggestion that priests should break the secrets of the confessional box and reveal details of clergy accused of child sex abuse.
“Ireland can approve all the laws it wants but it should know the church will never allow itself the obligation to betray the confessional to civil authorities,” said Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti.
“It is absurd to think that priests should be obliged to betray what is said in the confessional box.”
Both Prime Minister Kenny and Justice Minister Shatter have vowed to enforce the new laws despite the worsening relationship between Ireland and the Vatican.
“The plan to bring in the new law on withholding information on crimes against children and vulnerable adults will apply regardless of any internal rules of any religious grouping”, said Shatter.
“The central focus of the Government is child protection.”
The decision to recall the Papal Nuncio, essentially the Vatican’s ambassador to Ireland, was made in the wake of scathing and historic criticism from Kenny in the wake of the Cloyne Report.
Leanza has been summonsed back to Rome to brief Pope Benedict XVI and senior church officials on details of the report which accused the Catholic hierarchy of covering up the actions of pedophile priests.
Despite the move, Kenny has told government colleagues that he will not change his stance as he awaits a formal response from the Holy See to the report and his subsequent comments.
“The ball is very much in their court. It’s become clear to them (the Vatican), that this administration has a different approach to previous administrations,” a government source told the Irish Independent.
Senior government officials believe the Pope and his bishops in Rome are finally taking the Cloyne Report seriously.
Vatican deputy press officer Father Ciro Benedettini said: “The recall of the Nuncio denotes the seriousness of the situation and the Holy See’s desire to face it objectively and determinedly.
“Nor does it exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions.”
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore told the Independent that the decision to recall the Papal Nuncio to the Vatican for consultations was a matter for the Holy See.
“The Government is awaiting the response of the Holy See to the recent report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne and it is to be expected that the Vatican would wish to consult in depth with the Nuncio on its response,” said Gilmore.