The Vatican has flatly rejected damning claims by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that it tried to frustrate an inquiry into clerical child abuse, insisting the allegations are unfounded.
In its formal response to the Government in the wake of the latest church abuse scandal, the Holy See said that it in no way hampered or interfered with the inquiry into abuse cover-ups in the Cloyne diocese.
Mr Kenny launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican in parliament, claiming that the probe exposed a dysfunctional, elite hierarchy determined to frustrate investigations. But the Holy See said the Cloyne Report did not back up the Taoiseach's allegations.
The Vatican said: "In particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted 'to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago', which Mr Kenny made no attempt to substantiate, is unfounded."
The Cloyne Report, published in July, was the fourth major report in six years into the church's cover-ups of clerical abuse.
The Co Cork diocese was the latest arm of the church to be exposed, with former bishop John Magee, a Vatican aide to three Popes, singled out for misleading investigators and "dangerous" failures on child protection. His resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict last year.
Opening a special Dail debate a week after the report's publication, Mr Kenny launched a blistering attack on the Holy See, accusing it of downplaying the rape and torture of children by clerical sex abusers. Mr Kenny said he does not regret making the speech.
"I made my statement to the Dail, and obviously the question being asked by the Tanaiste on behalf of the Government was to have the Vatican respond in respect of a statutory commission of inquiry arising from the Cloyne situation," the Taoiseach said.
But Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's press office, rejected Mr Kenny's Dail comments. He said: "We do not understand what was in the mind of the Prime Minister."
The Vatican claimed it in no way hampered or interfered in the inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in the Diocese. "Furthermore, at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties," the statement said.