Jul 25, 2011

Vatican Pulls Ambassador to Ireland

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Departing Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza

Things have become so heated between Irish officials and the Vatican that the Holy See has recalled its ambassador. With characteristic tone-deafness, the Vatican cited "excessive reactions" to the priestly abuse scandal. At issue is the reaction of Prime Minister Enda Kenny who publicly rebuked the Vatican for its role in the cover-up as detailed in the recently released Cloyne Report.

During a July 20 parliamentary debate, Kenny said an independent judicial investigation into the handling of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne "exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago."

"And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day," he said.

. . .

Kenny said that "this calculated, withering position" was "the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman church was founded."

He said that "the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who -- like me -- have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the state's authorities."

Referring to a tendency identified in the Cloyne Report to put the rights of accused clerics ahead of victims, Kenny said "clericalism has rendered some of Ireland's brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors" of abuse.

Vatican officials seemed determined to prove Prime Minister Kenny right. Their response to his remarks has been to, once again, minimize the problem and scold him for pointing out the elephant on the floor of parliament. The Vatican has been calling victims and their defenders excessive and reactive, in one form or another, for decades. Vatican authorities seem incapable of understanding how much pain and misery their actions and inactions have caused.

No doubt, because the Prime Minister echoed their incredulity and frustration, he has received an outpouring of gratitude and support from the Irish public.

In light of Judge Yvonne Murphy's findings on the Diocese of Cloyne, church officials would do well to issue a mea culpa, but the response has predictably been to deflect blame. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi expressed disappointment at the reports failure to acknowledge all the new initiatives the church is taking under Pope Benedict's leadership to prevent future problems. Considering that the Cloyne report found multiple cases of abuse had been covered up as recently as 2008 -- when social services got involved -- perhaps now isn't the time to start congratulating the Vatican on its proactiveness.

At the heart of the scandal is Bishop John Magee who failed to report numerous instances of impropriety, including his own inappropriate conduct towards a "young" aspirant to the priesthood.

The commission was charged with investigating the handling of allegations made against 19 priests from 1996 -- when the church in Ireland first implemented child protection procedures -- to 2009. The commission found that "the primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee."

"It is a remarkable fact," the report notes, "that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008."

Between 1996 -- when the Irish bishops introduced guidelines for mandatory reporting -- and 2005, the diocese failed to report nine out of 15 complaints against priests, which "very clearly should have been reported," the report said.

The report found further that the Vatican had been "entirely unhelpful" to Bishops who were trying to comply with the new required reporting guidelines. In particular, Vatican officials refused to grant the Irish guidelines approval, leaving Bishops with no clear policy to implement and the latitude to continue ignoring the problem.

Also faulted was Cloyne vicar general, Msgr. Denis O'Callaghan who doesn't approve of the entire concept of reporting child abusers to civil authorities. So he failed to report in even the numerous cases in which he believed abuse had occurred. In other cases of evident sexual abuse he seemed oblivious and obtuse.

Cloyne is not alone in its failure to address the problem. Three of Ireland's dioceses have now been subject to judicial scrutiny and found to have protected the church at the expense of children.

In light of the very fair criticism from public officials including the Prime Minister, the Vatican has chosen the cut and run approach. Rather than address the gaping wound in the hearts of devout Catholics in the devoutly Catholic country, the Vatican's response is to show its "displeasure" with Irish officials by withdrawing their ambassador.

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