Enda Kenny has delivered a historic condemnation of the Vatican for attempting to cover up the sexual abuse of children.
In an unprecedented departure from previously diplomatic church-State relations, Mr Kenny directly accused the Catholic hierarchy of down-playing the rape of children to protect its own power and reputation.
Mr Kenny delivered a hallmark Dail address on behalf of the Government. He highlighted how the recent report into abuse in the Cloyne diocese highlighted the "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . the narcissism . . . that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day".
He said: "The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'."
Responding to Mr Kenny's speech, an emotional Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, later described some of his fellow bishops as being part of a "cabal" who refuse to recognise the rules of the church.
And he called for the Catholic Church's child abuse watchdog to be given powers to compel bishops to co-operate with audits into dioceses.
The uncompromising tone of Mr Kenny's speech is certain to send shockwaves through the Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican. Ireland has traditionally had a subservient relationship with the Holy See.
It will also be widely welcomed by victims of clerical abuse, who have reacted with dismay to Rome's muted denials that clergy were told not to report abuse claims.
After delivering the strongest speech in his tenure as Taoiseach -- and possibly his career -- Mr Kenny spoke passionately about how "the revelations of the Cloyne Report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture".
"Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland's brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy reports," he added.
Mr Kenny hit out at the Vatican's reaction to the harrowing evidence given by victims of clerical abuse, which he said was "parsed and analysed by a canon lawyer".
The Taoiseach said he agreed with Dr Martin that the church needed to publish all similar reports as soon as possible.
Speaking afterwards, Dr Martin appeared to fight back tears as he spoke of how he was angry, ashamed and appalled by the behaviour of bishops who shielded abusers from gardai.
"I find myself today asking ... can I be proud of the church, what I am seeing, I have to be ashamed of these things and I have to be ashamed because of what is being done to victims and what has been done to people in the church," he said.
"Those who felt they were able to play tricks with norms, they have betrayed those good men and so many others in the church who are working today and I am angry, ashamed and appalled by that," he added.
Referring to the country's bishops, Dr Martin said he hoped they could be trusted to be honest in their dealings with Ian Elliott, the chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
But he said if this was not the case, the State should step in.
"If there is somebody there that is not prepared to be honest, then they will only be discovered if there is an audit that has the powers to be invasive.
"Ian Elliot has moral power but if there are people who are not acting morally, then moral power will not be enough," Dr Martin said.
Source Irish Independent