A leading priest has called on Ireland's four Catholic archbishops to point the finger of blame at the Vatican for its central role in the global clerical child abuse crisis.
Ahead of today's long-awaited meeting with senior Vatican officials, Fr Sean McDonagh, an expert on the environment and ecology, has also appealed to an international team of investigators to join forces with the four Irish church leaders in putting the Vatican under fire.
The Irish delegation is led by Cardinal Sean Brady, and the nine-member team of outside investigators is headed by the senior English churchman, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Fr McDonagh said yesterday they should insist from the outset that the Vatican be held accountable for the worldwide abuse crisis.
"I believe the Irish archbishops and the team of visitors should begin by scrutinising Rome's own handling of sex abuse allegations," Fr McDonagh, a co-founder of the Association of Irish Priests, last night told the Irish Independent.
He instanced how for decades the Vatican shielded the late Fr Marcel Maciel, the notorious Mexican paedophile founder of the ultra-conservative Legionaries of Christ, as "one of the greatest failures in terms of accountability any where in the church".
However, there was no comment on Fr McDonagh's challenge from the Irish camp and the investigators, who privately sang from the same hymn sheet that they were all in the dark as to how Pope Benedict wants to conduct the Irish inquiry he announced last March.
A timetable is expected to be agreed today when Cardinal Brady, accompanied by Archbishops Diarmuid Martin, Dermot Clifford and Michael Neary appear, as summoned, before the Congregation of Bishops.
On his arrival in Rome yesterday, Archbishop Neary told the Irish Independent that he would not know if the investigators would consult priests and laity until he knew the outcome of today's meeting.
Also already in Rome are the heavyweight churchmen from the US and Canada who have been specially assigned by the Vatican to compile an inventory of their conclusions for presentation to Pope Benedict on the shocking findings of the Ryan and Murphy reports.
As well as analysing the causes of the huge scale of clerical child abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin and in industrial schools run by religious orders -- as well as their cover-up -- the investigating team is to examine the current child protection schemes. How abuse victims are being treated will also be a key feature of the probe.
The investigators will be mandated by the Holy See to come forward with recommendations on how to "assist the local church on her path of renewal".