Diplomatic row ensues between Dublin and Vatican over Cloyne report on sexual abuse

politics | Jul 25, 2011 | By Martin Barillas

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy See has recalled its diplomatic representative to the Irish Republic following unprecedented official criticism of the Church.  Monsignor Giuseppe Leanza, papal nuncio to Dublin, was called to consultations in Rome following severe criticism on the part of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny over the Church's reponse to accusations of child abuse on the part of priests and other religious. Kenny accused the Church of putting its own reputation ahead of the welfare of children.

The so-called Cloyne Report detailed instances of abuse by clerics and female religious. The Catholic Diocese of Cloyne investigated how allegations against 19 priests were dealt with between 1996 and 2009. Published on July 13, the report found that Bishop John Magee falsely told the Irish government he was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities. Magee is himself one of the priests mentioned in the report.  Magee was scored by the report over his handling of sexual abuse allegations, as well as an encounter he had with a 17-year-old postulant to the priesthood. Magee resigned his post in 2009. Both the Catholic Church and Bishop Magee have apologized. The leader of Ireland's Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, said it was another "dark day in the history of the response of church leaders to the cry of children abused by church personnel." "The findings of this report confirm that grave errors of judgement were made and serious failures of leadership occurred," he said.

 
Prime Minister Kenny said "This is deplorable and totally unacceptable," in weekend statements that have engendered a diplomatic row between Dublin and Rome.  Speaking to the Irish parliament, Kenny said that the report of sex abuse committed by priests in Corked had been covered up. Change, he said, is urgently needed.  "The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'," said the Taoiseach (Gaelic for prime minister) on July 20. Speaking darkly, Kenny said, "The revelations of the Cloyne Report have brought the government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture." Kenny has not specified what sort of "change" is required.
 
Over the July 23-24 weekend, the Kenny said he had received thousands of messages of support from around the world, saying at a cultural event in Donegal that the messages accurately reflected their feelings about the Church. Kenny said that he  was "astounded" at the number of clergy who contacted him after his speech on the Cloyne Report.  "The fact that I have had thousands of messages from around the world speaks for itself about the impact and the way people feel," he said. "The numbers of members of the clergy who have been in touch in the last few days to say it is about time somebody spoke out about these matters in a situation like you are, has astounded me."  His audience at Donegal gave him a standing ovation. 
 
Irish President Mary McAleese, upon the release of the report, said "It is a matter of grave concern that the report's findings show that, up to 2008, the Cloyne Diocese failed in large measure to comply with the Catholic Church's own 1996 guidelines on clerical child sex abuse." She added, "Had these guidelines been fully honoured and rigorously adhered to (as the public had been led to believe they would), this report would never have been necessary and children need not have been rendered so vulnerable."
 
On July 21, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said in a television interview that he questions whether he "can be proud of the Church I'm the leader of," following Prime Minister Kenny's scolding. According to the BBC, the archbishop said there are groups in the Vatican and the Irish hierarchy trying to undermine child protection measures. Furthermore, said Archbishop Martin, there were systems in place that were ignored.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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