Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Disgraced cardinal was guest at Republic of Ireland's Vatican embassy

A cardinal who was forced to resign as Archbishop of Boston over a child sex abuse cover-up scandal attended parties at Ireland's Vatican Embassy last year.

Disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law attended farewell bashes for the Irish and British ambassadors in Ireland's former embassy to the Holy See, the lavish Villa Spada mansion.

The revelation that such a controversial figure was an honoured guest in the embassy just last year comes as the row over its closure continues to rage.

And it will anger victims of abuse after a string of reports into child sex abuse by the clergy in this country have been released in recent years.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore announced last November that he was closing the embassy for economic reasons, a move which has provoked a backlash from Fine Gael backbenchers as well as the religious community.

Last month the Irish Independent revealed details of the three largest parties thrown by the Irish ambassador in the 17th century mansion in Rome in 2011.

However, the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs blacked out almost all the names on the guest lists in records it released under the Freedom of Information Act.

But after an appeal by the Irish Independent most of the names have been revealed -- with Cardinal Law prominent among the guests at two of the parties.

Cardinal Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston in 2002 after decades of child abuse by the clergy was exposed in the diocese where he reigned for 18 years.

He was subsequently put in charge of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, a prestigious position he held until last November.

The 81-year-old was heavily criticised in the report into child abuse in the Boston diocese.

The report found that, similar to Ireland, offending priests were transferred from parish to parish where they were able to abuse again, and the hierarchy seemed more concerned with the church's reputation than protecting children.

However, Cardinal Law's controversial past did not stop Irish diplomats from inviting him to three parties in the Holy See last year.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs initially tried to keep the guest lists at these parties secret.

In its original release the department cited a clause in the Freedom of Information Act that allows it to withhold records if their release could "affect adversely the international relations of the State".

The department also said it was concerned with the protection of "personal information".

This decision was overturned on appeal, and the guest lists were last night released almost in their entirety.

The records show that Cardinal Law was most recently invited to a May 27 farewell reception for Ambassador Noel Fahey, who was retiring, with a note on the guest list indicating that he had responded to say he would attend.

The previous March, he had been invited to a St Patrick's Day bash attended by more than 200 guests, although on that occasion he rsvp'd to say that he wouldn't be going.

And in January 2011 he attended another farewell dinner, this time for British Ambassador and Co Down man Francis Campbell.

Cardinal Law was accompanied on this occasion by Monsignor Paul McInerny who was his secretary in Boston in the 1990s.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Cardinal Law was invited to the events because he "was a senior member of the Roman Curia who, in his professional capacity, was regularly invited to functions organised by members of the diplomatic corps to the Holy See".

Asked if the embassy had any policy in relation to the issuing of invites to clergy involved in the cover-up of child sex abuse, the spokeswoman said: "Our ambassadors are experienced diplomats who exercise discretion and judgment when issuing invitations to official functions."

Relations between the Republic of Ireland and the Vatican reached an all-time low last year after the release of the Cloyne Report into child abuse in the diocese.

The publication of the report prompted Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make an unprecedented attack on the Vatican in the Dail last July over its role in covering up abuse scandals.

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