Vatican recalls Papal Nuncio to Ireland -- PR suicide 101
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 at 10:48 AM
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The shocking decision from the Vatican to recall its accredited diplomatic representative to Ireland, 'Papal Nuncio' Giuseppe Lenza, is a decision which will only worsen the impact of the recent Cloyne Report fallout for the already badly damaged institution, and tarnish further their already sullied reputation in the eyes of its faithful.
The Vatican has now chosen to shun any possible opportunity to enter into dialogue over the serious allegations contained in the document, which were numerous, serious, and shocking, and shown that it prefers the sort of 'elitism' that Enda Kenny hit out at in the Dail -- now only available, apparently, in the sheltered haven of Rome -- to functioning like a normal sovereign authority and entering into bilateral discussions and owning up to what it did wrong.
The fact that the Vatican's withdrawal of its diplomat springs directly as a result of Kenny's milestone speech criticising it in the Dail - lauded from all corners and hailed as one of the greatest and most significant speeches in the history of the Irish state - is also childish in the extreme.
Ireland, like any other democracy, has been vocally critical of the conduct of many nations with diplomatic missions here throughout the State's existence (Israel, Libya, Lebanon, to name just a few), yet none of these countries have seen fit to recall their ambassador back in a huff as the Vatican did. Ireland's constitution makes a commitment to maintaining 'concord' between the nations, yet this is a priority clearly not held in the same esteem by the Church's puppet-masters in Rome.
Recent media reports recount how the Papal Nuncio - himself a career diplomat with the Vatican, having served in various roles since 1972 - appeared flustered and hassled after leaving a meeting at Iveagh House, the headquarters of Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs, following a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Eamonn Gilmore.
If Gilmore gave him a good dressing down, then it's certainly the least he deserved: the Vatican was uncovered to have made serious and deliberate attempts to impede investigations into child sexual abuse in the Irish church, and instruct domestic clerics to do likewise. Perhaps an apology would have been more in order than tendering a resignation.
Most notably, though, this marks the stage where we can definitely say that there is a serious cooling of relations emerging between Ireland and the Church. The New York Times in an article published this morning, described it as a 'deepening standoff'; perhaps an irreparable rift will come to be a more apt description as the crisis plays out.
More than anything, though, you'd wonder why the surprisingly media-savvy Vatican chose this most amateur and draconian course of action as its way of handling a serious assault on its reputation in Ireland.
It's certainly the last thing that will help bring about any sort of reconciliation between the Church and its justifiably disillusioned adherents and may well mark the dawn of a terminal break-up between the two.
And if that does happen, then given today's reaction from the Vatican you'd be hard-pressed not to sympathize with them.
Clarification: contrary to what was stated above, indications are currently that the Nuncio's recall is for the purpose of engaging in 'consultations' on the matter with the Pope, rather than a permanent withdrawal. Articles published following the posting of this blog also quote sources from within the Department of Foreign Affairs as indicating that the move is not now being viewed as hostile, as it may initially have seemed to be.