The Irish Examiner
Saturday, September 03, 2011 – 12:14 PM
The Vatican has formally responded to the findings of the Cloyne report and to criticism levelled against it by the Government in the wake of its publication.
In a 20-page statement issued this morning, the Vatican vigorously rejects accusations that it sabotaged efforts by Irish bishops to report priests who sexually abused children to Gardaí.
In July of this year the Cloyne report was published detailing a litany of abuse complaints against 19 priest in diocese in Cork.
The inquiry found how the diocese failed to report nine out of 15 complaints of child sex abuse made against priests between 1996 and 2005 when child protection procedures were already in place.
It also revealed how the former Bishop John Magee misled a previous inquiry and gave a false account of how he was handling allegations.
Crucially the report found that a decision by the Vatican to categorise a framework document on child sexual abuse, agreed by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1996, as “not an official document ” effectively gave individual Irish Bishops the freedom to ignore the guidelines.
The findings prompted the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make a landmark speech and launch a scathing attack against the Vatican – describing their attitude as “dysfunctional” and “elitist”.
Today, the Vatican gave their response to these criticisms.
In a statement to the Government the Vatican said that Enda Kenny‘s claims, were “unfounded” and based on an incorrect reading of a 1997 Vatican letter expressing “serious reservations” about the Irish bishops’ 1996 policy requiring bishops to report abusers to Gardaí.
The Vatican also rejected accusations it diminished the policy’s seriousness, saying the bishops themselves never sought to make it binding.
It also states that there is no evidence in the Cloyne report 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.
“In particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted ’to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago’, which Mr Kenny made no attempt to substantiate, is unfounded,” the Vatican said.
A Government spokesperson has said the Vatican’s reaction to the report is now “being considered” by the Taoiseach and Government Ministers.
Vatican rejects Govt criticism after Cloyne
Updated: 13:50, Saturday, 3 September 2011
The Vatican has issued its response to criticism levelled against it by the Government following publication of the Cloyne report.
In a 25-page statement, the Vatican rebuts remarks made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil in July.
The report on the Cloyne Diocese found that Bishop John Magee falsely told the Government and the Health Service Executive that the Catholic Diocese was reporting all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the civil authorities.
The statement from the Vatican says “it has significant reservations that the speech made by Enda Kenny TD in the Dáil on the 20th of July, in particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic, is unfounded.”
The statement added that the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.
Furthermore, the Vatican says that at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish Civil law or impeded the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.
The Holy See observes that there is no evidence cited anywhere in the Cloyne Report, to support the claim that its (i.e. the Vatican’s) supposed intervention contributed to the undermining of the child protection framework and guidelines of the Irish State.
The Cloyne Report scrutinized how both Church and State authorities handled complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse made against 19 priests working under Bishop John Magee in the Co Cork diocese between 1996 and 2009.
The response from the Vatican was prompted by scathing criticism levelled against it by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil in July in which he castigated what he termed “the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism” in the Vatican.
The Vatican also responded to claims in the Cloyne Report that it referred to a Framework Document, drawn up by Irish Bishops, on how to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse as “not an official document..but merely a study document.”
It says that taken out of context the comments in the letter from Archbishop Storero to Irish Bishops “could be open to misinterpretation, giving rise to understandable criticism.”
It says this description was “not a dismissal of the serious efforts undertaken by Irish Bishops to address the grave problem of child sexual abuse.”
Rather the congregation “wished to ensure that nothing contained in the Framework Document would give rise to difficulties should appeals be lodged to the Holy See.”
The Vatican also refutes the claim that Irish Bishops sought recognition from Rome for the Framework Document but it was not forthcoming.
It says Irish Bishops did not, under Canon Law, seek ‘recongnito’ for the Framework Document, therefore the Holy See cannot be criticised for failing to grant what was never requested in the first place.
However, according to the Vatican, this would not have prevented applying the Framework Document in individual Dioceses.
Speaking on Vatican Radio today, Fr Federico Lombardi said: “The document is clearly structured and seeks to give detailed and documented answers to all the questions raised, inserting them into a broader perspective”.
“The text of the document shows how the Holy See has given very serious and respectful consideration to the queries and criticism it has received, and has undertaken to answer them serenely and exhaustively, avoiding polemics even when giving clear answers to the accusations made”.
The Holy See’s Press Office Director continued that the Holy See hopes its response “will achieve the fundamental shared goal of contributing to rebuilding a climate of trust and co-operation with the Irish authorities, which is essential for an effective commitment on the part of the Church and society to guarantee the primary goal: protecting children and young people”.
Cardinal Sean Brady has welcomed the Vatican’s response describing it as carefully prepared and respectfully presented.
He said the time taken to prepare the reply, and its content, indicates the commitment on the part of the Holy See to deal with this matter earnestly, fairly and sensitively.
Cloyne inquiry was third into abuse allegations in Ireland
The Cloyne Report was the third such report into allegations of abuse in an individual diocese in Ireland.
Its time span – from 1996 to 2009 – was the most recent of all the investigations.
The report claimed that the Vatican response could “only be described as unsupportive especially in relation to the civil authorities.”
It also said that the Vatican’s decision to categorise a Framework Document on child sexual abuse, agreed by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1996, as “not an official document” effectively gave individual Irish bishops “the freedom to ignore” the guidelines.
Describing the response of the Diocese itself as “inadequate and inappropriate”, the report found that the then Bishop of Cloyne, Dr Magee “took little or no active interest” in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008.
The Government reacted swiftly, with the Minister for Justice announcing plans to introduce legislation to make it a criminal offence not to report the sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult.
Vatican rejects abuse probe claim
Saturday, 03 September 2011
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi during a press conference at the Holy See Press Office, at the Vatican (AP)
In its formal response to the government in the wake of the damning findings of abuse allegations in the diocese of Cloyne, the Holy See said that it in no way hampered or interfered with the inquiry.
“In particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted ‘to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago’, which Mr Kenny made no attempt to substantiate, is unfounded,” the Vatican said.
In an unprecedented attack in the Dail parliament in July, Mr Kenny accused the Vatican of downplaying the rape and torture of Irish children by clerical sex abusers.
In a damning assessment of Rome’s attitude to paedophile priests, Mr Kenny claimed the Cloyne inquiry into clerical abuse cover-ups exposed a dysfunctional, elite hierarchy determined to frustrate investigations.
The Taoiseach’s attack, which opened a special Dail parliament debate, followed the publication a week earlier of the fourth major report in six years into the church’s cover-ups of clerical abuse.
Cloyne Diocese in Co Cork was the latest part of the church to be exposed with former bishop John Magee, a Vatican aide to three Popes, singled out for misleading investigators and “dangerous” failures on child protection. His resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict last year.
The Vatican statement, more than 10,300 words long, was issued after Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore demanded answers from the Vatican on claims it allowed priests to ignore mandatory reporting guidelines on suspected child abusers within the church.
It said the Holy See was ashamed for the “terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure.”
“The Holy See is deeply concerned at the findings of the commission of inquiry concerning grave failures in the ecclesiastical governance of the Diocese of Cloyne and the mishandling of allegations of abuse,” it stated. “It is particularly disturbing that these failures occurred despite the undertaking given by the bishops and religious superiors to apply the guidelines developed by the Church in Ireland to help ensure child protection and despite the Holy See’s own norms and procedures relating to cases of sexual abuse.”
Vatican rejects cover-up claims over Cloyne report
03 September 2011
The Vatican has rejected claims by Irish PM Enda Kenny that it sabotaged efforts by Irish bishops to report child-molesting priests to police.
It follows the damning Cloyne Report that showed how allegations of clerical sex-abuse in Cork had been covered up.
In a speech to parliament in July, Mr Kenny accused the Church of putting its reputation ahead of abuse victims.
The Vatican said it was “sorry and ashamed” over the scandal but said his claims were “unfounded”.
“The Holy See is deeply concerned at the findings of the commission of inquiry concerning grave failures in the ecclesiastical governance of the diocese of Cloyne,” said the Vatican, in a detailed response to the allegations.
“The Holy See… in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.”
“Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.”
Mr Kenny had told the Irish parliament that the report into how allegations of sex abuse by priests in Cork had been covered up showed change was urgently needed.
Enda Kenny accused the Catholic Church of putting its reputation ahead of child rape victims
“The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’,” he said.
Parliament then passed a motion deploring the Holy See for “undermining child protection frameworks” after a letter to Irish bishops appeared to diminish Irish guidelines on reporting sex abuse by referring to them as “study guidelines”.
The Vatican then recalled its special envoy in Dublin, Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza, to discuss the impact of the report.
But the Holy See’s response, published on Saturday, said Mr Kenny’s blistering accusations were based on a misinterpretation of a 1997 Vatican letter expressing “serious reservations” about the Irish bishops’ 1996 policy requiring bishops to report abusers to police.
“In a spirit of humility, the Holy See, while rejecting unfounded accusations, welcomes all objective and helpful observations and suggestions to combat with determination the appalling crime of sexual abuse of minors,” said the statement.
Released in July, the 400-page Cloyne Report found that Bishop John Magee – who stood down in March 2009 after serving as bishop of Cloyne since 1987 – had falsely told the government and the health service that his diocese was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities.
It also found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisors by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspected of abusing a child – one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files.
It discovered that, contrary to repeated assertions on its part, the Diocese of Cloyne did not implement the procedures set out in the Church protocols for dealing with allegations of child sex-abuse. It said the greatest failure was that no complaints, except one in 1996, were reported to the health authorities until 2008.
It said the disturbing findings were compounded by the fact that the commission found that the Vatican’s response to the Church guidelines was entirely unhelpful and gave comfort and support to those who dissented from the guidelines. It said this was “wholly unacceptable”.