The Vatican responded yesterday to the charges of the Irish Government. They have quite predictably deflected the criticism and rejected any claim that the Vatican can be blamed in any way for the failures in Cloyne.
I find it interesting that a response which was expected before the end of August was delivered instead in early September... on a Saturday. If the Irish news cycle is anything like ours in the US, that's a textbook method of making a story disappear. (There's a reason politicians post bad news on Friday afternoons.) And here in the US, where the priestly abuse scandal is keenly followed, it's a holiday weekend. The Vatican couldn't have planned it better if their intent was to bury the story in US news markets. I don't think it will work, however. The Irish Government wasted no time in responding to the Vatican's report.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny, yet to formally reply to the statement, has said he stands by his criticism of Church leadership and its handling of the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Cloyne diocese.
“I do not regret my response to the report when I made that statement to the Dail (Irish parliament) in July, I will respond fully in due course,” said Kenny at a Cavalry Remembrance Day ceremony at the Curragh Army Camp.
Deputy Prime Minister Gilmore, leader of the Labor Party, has also responded to the Vatican statement and reminded the Church that the protection of children should be of the utmost importance for Church and State.
. . .
He added: “Some of the argumentation put forward by the Holy See was very technical and legalistic.
“The government’s concerns were never about the status of church documents but rather about the welfare of children.
At specific issue is a letter sent in 1997 by then Nuncio Cardinal Darion Castrillon Hoyos. The Vatican response diminishes the role of the letter and claims it was misinterpreted.
The Vatican became embroiled in the latest Irish church scandal after revelations about a 1997 letter, from the then papal nuncio to Irish bishops, a year after reporting guidelines were enforced to enhance child protection.
The correspondence stated that the bishops' policy was "merely a discussion document" and that the Vatican had serious moral and canon reservations about mandatory reporting of clerical abuse.
But the Vatican says that taken out of context, the comments in the letter from Archbishop Luciano Storero to Irish bishops "could be open to misinterpretation, giving rise to understandable criticism."
But it's the Vatican that seems to have a very selective reading of the Cardinal Hoyos's views on cooperating with civil authorities.
Surprisingly, the Vatican response Saturday cites a 1998 speech Castrillon Hoyos delivered to Irish bishops on dealing with sexual abuse in which he stressed that the church and its priests "should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice." The Vatican said his speech showed that civil law and church law can operate in parallel.
The response doesn't, however, cite the rest of Castrillon Hoyos' speech, in which he resoundingly criticized the Irish mandatory reporting policy, said it should be revised and that such reporting requirements risked that "the image of the bishop can be turned into more of a policeman than a true father."
He acknowledged that such crimes need to be dealt with quickly, but warned against "obsessive" pursuit of accused priests by bishops because of the damage it can do to the priests, whose souls, he said, were "at the center of the affair." [emphasis added]
"If he is guilty, we must, before anything else, be involved with his conversion," Castrillon Hoyos said. "If as often happens, he is a victim of calumny, we must help him to prove his innocence and carry this cross."
Such statements are emblematic of the Church's reflexive protection of abusive priests at the expense of the children they abuse.
As recently as 2001, Castriollon Hoyos was actively advocating the protection of abusive priests from the law. As I reported here, he sent out a letter to bishops extolling the virtues of a French bishop who refused to turn an abusive priest over to civil authorities. He has also claimed that the letter was approved by none other than Pope John Paul II.
It's history like that that fills so many of us with incredulity when the Vatican repeatedly pronounces itself blameless in the continuously unfolding sex abuse scandal.
A pdf of the full text of the Vatican's response is available from Irish Times.