Vatican City — The Vatican on Saturday vigorously rejected accusations it had sabotaged efforts by Irish bishops to report priests who sexually abused children to police and charged that the Irish prime minister had made an “unfounded” attack against the Holy See.
The Vatican issued a 24-page response to the Irish government after Prime Minister Enda Kenny and the Irish parliament publicly denounced the Vatican following the publication in July of a government-mandated investigation into priestly sex abuse in the diocese of Cloyne in southern Ireland. The report found that the Vatican had undermined attempts by Irish bishops to protect children by warning that their policy requiring abuse to be reported to police might violate church law.
The Cloyne report, and Kenny’s unprecedented dressing down of the Holy See that followed, prompted cheers from Irish Catholics who have grown increasingly disgusted by the colossal scale of priestly sexual abuse and cover-up in Ireland and the Vatican’s consistent claim that it bore no blame.
The diplomatic standoff was particularly acute given that Ireland has long been staunchly Roman Catholic, Kenny himself is a practicing Catholic, and the church has long enjoyed a privileged place in society. The abuse scandal has taken its toll, however, and Kenny’s speech was a remarkable indication of just how deep the wounds are.
It also came as the Vatican is fighting on multiple legal fronts in the U.S. to defend itself against lawsuits alleging it is liable for abusive priests. Just last month, the Holy See was forced to turn over internal personnel files of an abusive priest to lawyers representing a victim in Oregon.
The Vatican was patently stunned by Kenny’s July 20 speech and recalled its ambassador. In the seven weeks since, it drafted a detailed response, hoping to set the record straight and assure Ireland’s abuse-weary faithful that it is serious about cracking down on predator priests.
Irish leaders, however, were not convinced. Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said he remained certain that the Vatican had exacerbated the abuse crisis and criticized the Holy See for offering an overly “legalistic” justification of its actions in dealing with priests who rape and molest children.