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Vatican: Taoiseach, Tanaiste criticisms 'unfounded'

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In its long-awaited response to Prime Minister Enda Kenny's firebrand speech in parliament this summer, the Vatican has called 'unfounded' the government's accusations that it attempted to frustrate enquiries into rampant sexual abuse in Ireland, while making a tepid acknowledgement that it 'shares' in and understands the widespread public anger ignited by the damning Cloyne Report.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has quickly jumped on the PR bandwagon, calling on the Taoiseach to substantiate the allegations of frustrating the criminal process which he accused the powers-in-Rome of earlier this summer, but both Kenny and the government have refused to budge from their original positions.

It's not exactly the stuff of high diplomatic drama, but the weak response from the Vatican - the product of 'consultations' between recalled papal nuncio Giuseppe Leanza and the Holy See - will do little to improve the Vatican's badly damaged image in Ireland, and continues the lengthening cooling off between the two sovereign powers.

Archbishop Martin's call on the Taoiseach to explain the reasoning behind his accusation that the Vatican tried, effectively, to frustrate sovereign criminal investigations, also seems pathetic: the Archbishop surely had access to the Report at the same time the rest of the country did, but only seems to have been able to muster the courage to point out the 'flaw' in the government's response to the document once given the green-light by the puppet-masters in Rome.

A nice analysis of the main soundbites from the Papal response was put together on the Irish Times website, here; the full text of the comminique issued jointly to Gilmore and Kenny was posted on the Vatican's rather amateurish-looking PR website, appears here.

What's unsurprisingly is the near total lack of sympathy with the victims of child abuse documented in the grim report (full text, here).

The Report documented a shocking level of fact-bludgeoning by the Church authorities, and a widespread policy to ignore cases of child abuse when it suited the Church.

Two thirds of abuse allegations between 1996 and 2009 were not passed on to Irish police, while disgraced Bishop John Magee was found to have engaged in widespread misleading of both the government and the HSE, refusing, along with his second-in-command Monsignor Dennis O'Callaghan, to co-operate with a formal Garda investigation in 2006.

The 400 page Report, authored by Justice Yvonne Murphy, also found, as fact that Church authorities were "highly unhelpful" in assisting any bishop seeking assistance in implementing procedures relating to sex abuse cases, while finding that there was effectively no proper system for dealing with complaints in place when there clearly should have.

Unfortunately the Vatican's response, in both its summary and full-text forms, appears as a cold and legalistic refutation of the main concerns raised in the document, citing archaic provisions of Canon law to point out that Church leaders are obliged, by the Church's law, to report all cases of sexual abuse to the national authorities, though missing the main point that in two out of three instances this didn't in fact happen.

The Vatican seems more concerned about picking a bone with a two minute speech in parliament than with assessing how it failed sex abuse victims.

The brief interjections that the Holy See "once again [wishes to state that] it shares the deep concern and anxiety expressed by the Irish authorities" ring fairly hollow in the overall tenor of the document.

Perhaps unsurprising, but disappointing nonetheless.


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