Editor's Viewpoint: Seismic shock for Catholic Church
Published 22/07/2011 | 08:00
The blistering attack by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the Vatican in the wake of the disturbing Cloyne report on clerical child abuse was a seismic moment in the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church in the Republic.
He pulled no punches in his comments which would have been unthinkable in an earlier era.
But, even more worryingly for the church, one of its most senior clerics, Dr Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, weighed in with more allegations of continuing cover-ups by elements in both the Vatican and Irish hierarchy.
While the Vatican may regard the Taoiseach's attack as political expediency, the Archbishop's comments are potentially more damaging. Far from being repentant - as it constantly preaches to its faithful - the church is being accused of ignoring its duty of care to young people and trying to avoid both its moral and legal obligations. Self-protection rather than child-protection is still the ethos in some lofty ranks.
The credibility of the church and some of its most senior members is now at an all-time low. This is a phrase which has been repeated frequently since the first allegations of child abuse were investigated and yet the church seems determined to sink further into a morass of deceit.
The too-cosy relationship between church and state in the Republic in the past is, of course, partly to blame for the ills of today and the state cannot absolve itself of blame.
It, too, could be accused of doing nothing when action was needed.
This very public falling out between church and state must put any thoughts of a Papal visit to Ireland in the near future in jeopardy. Instead of rallying the faithful, such a visit could well become a focal point for the disenchanted, and there must now be many of those, even among traditional Catholics.
The controversy also begs the question of when an investigation into child abuse in Northern Ireland will take place. It is inconceivable that abuse did not occur here and not just by Catholic clerics.