19 August 2011
THE “PARTIAL release” of internal files held by the Vatican, on a priest accused of sexually abusing boys in Ireland and the US, was not an indication of a changing church, abuse victims have said.
Abuse victim and campaigner Andrew Madden said the publication of the internal files on the late Fr Andrew Ronan had happened only after nine years of legal wrangling and was incomplete.
“They spent nine years opposing the handover of this information; they are not changing at all,” he said.
Published on the website of Vatican Radio on Wednesday, the files are part of documentation the Holy See is due to turn over to US lawyers representing an American man who says he was abused by the priest more than 40 years ago.
The case is seen to have implications for the Vatican’s international exposure to clerical sex abuse claims.
Known in court papers as John V Doe, he is seeking to hold the Vatican liable for allegedly being abused by Ronan in 1965 or early 1966, when he was aged 15 or 16.
The Vatican said the files proved that it had learned of the accusations against Fr Ronan only in 1966, after the alleged abuse had occurred.
Critics, however, have said the files are only a partial release.
In a statement, John V Doe’s lawyer Jeff Anderson said the documents made public were a “partial release of what the court has ordered” and the Vatican had made no mention of “existing documents containing knowledge of abuse in Ireland and the United States that Vatican protocols, issued in 1922 and 1962, require to be forwarded to the Holy See.
“Indeed, the absence of these documents in the discovery would clearly raise more questions and concerns,” he said.
Mr Anderson is due to receive full discovery of documents today as ordered by the court.
Mr Madden said the documents released related only to 1966 on and did not cover the priest’s time in Tyrone and Chicago. As far as he was concerned, regardless of what was proved in court, it was clear the Vatican had been involved in the cover-up of the abuse.
“You couldn’t have that extent of a cover-up from one side of the world to the other without the Vatican being aware of it,” he said.
Survivor Marie Collins said there was no point in being overly positive about the files’ release. “It took nine years of legal work to get them to do this, so I’m not sure how significant it is.
“It could be a good sign, but having said that, you never know with the Vatican what their reason for doing things is, so there is no point in getting overly positive about it.” She said the Vatican should release all of the files it had been asked for.
Deirdre Kenny, advocacy director for abuse victims charity One in Four, also noted the Vatican had been compelled to hand over documents. The bigger question yet to be answered would be whether the Vatican could come under the jurisdiction of a US court, she said.
In a statement released with the documents, Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena said they would help “calm down those people who are too quick to make sensational and unfair comments without taking the time to get an adequate understanding of the facts”.
He said later his remarks were not a personal attack on Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who had criticised the Vatican in a speech to the Dáil.