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Vatican responds to Irish government report on clerical sexual abuse

 VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican is forcefully denying it undermined the Irish bishops’ efforts to protect children from sexual abuse and characterises claims made by Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, that it tried to interfere in government investigations into Church handling of sex abuse cases as unfounded, in a 19-page communiqué, issued on September 3.
The communiqué recognises the seriousness of the government report on the diocese of Cloyne, released on July 13, and says that it has sought to respond comprehensively, but believes the local bishop, Bishop John Magee, and diocesan authorities are responsible.
The communiqué denies the accusation that the Vatican was entirely unhelpful to the Irish bishops when they wanted to implement stronger norms for the protection of children.
After Kenny accused the Vatican of being dysfunctional, disconnected, elitist and narcissistic in the Dáil in Dublin on July 20, the Vatican recalled its nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, for consultation.
Vatican press officer, Father Federico Lombardi, said, “The point of departure is the recognition of the reality of what occurred, the gravity and amount of abuse committed.” He added that the seriousness of the failure of the bishop to act is not overlooked.
The response emphasises that the potential problems in the Irish bishops’ 1996 child protection guidelines did not nullify the guidelines or prevent local bishops from adopting them in their dioceses.
It also adds that Church officials, including bishops, are required to follow civil law regarding mandatory reporting of crimes and are free to report crimes to police even when not required by law.
The communiqué stresses that sexual abuse of children is a crime both in civil and in Church law, adding, “The Holy See is sorry and ashamed for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure within the Church of Jesus Christ, a place where this should never happen.”
In response to Kenny’s accusations, Father Lombardi said, “In this regard, the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or interfered in the inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in the diocese of Cloyne. Furthermore, at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.”
He also insisted that the Cloyne Report contains “no evidence to suggest that the Holy See meddled in the internal affairs of the Irish state or, for that matter, was involved in the day-to-day management of Irish dioceses or religious congregations with respect to sexual abuse issues.”
The communiqué explains that the Irish bishops never asked for formal recognition of their 1996 guidelines, so “the Holy See cannot be criticised for failing to grant what was never requested in the first place.” However, it adds that each of the bishops knew they had the authority to adopt the norms for their own dioceses.
It notes that the basic difficulty with regard to child protection in Cloyne stemmed not from a lack of formal Vatican recognition of the guidelines, “but from the fact that, while the diocese claimed to follow the guidelines, in reality it did not.”
The Vatican acknowledges the Congregation for Clergy had expressed reservations about mandatory reporting of abuse accusations to police or other civil authorities, but explains, “This response should not be construed as implying that the congregation was forbidding reporting or in any way encouraging individuals, including clerics, not to cooperate with the Irish civil authorities, let alone disobey Irish civil law.”
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