Belfast Telegraph

Vatican 'stung' by Irish PM Enda Kenny's rebuke

Holy See reeling from Taoiseach's amazing attack

Enda Kenny launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican
Enda Kenny launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican

By Fionnan Sheahan

The Vatican has been "stung" by Irish premier Enda Kenny's unprecedented condemnation of the Holy See over its attempts to cover up sexual abuse in the diocese of Cloyne.

Well-placed sources in Rome last night revealed senior prelates in the Roman Curia were working on a "considered response" to the Cloyne report demanded by the Irish government.

"But clearly they have been stung by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's unprecedented cogent criticisms on Wednesday that they were steeped in a climate of 'narcissism'," one source said.

The Vatican's retreat into silence came after the Pope's spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, inflamed the row on Tuesday when he said it was his personal opinion that there was nothing in the advice given by the papal nuncio in 1997 to encourage bishops to break Irish laws.

Rome came under further fire throughout yesterday as more politicians, senior church figures in Ireland and survivors' groups came out in support of Mr Kenny's hardline stance.

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said he was ashamed, as a Catholic, of what had gone on in the church, and called on the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church to resign in the wake of revelations in the Cloyne report into child sex abuse.

He said such a move would allow a new team to take on the leadership of the church.

Mr Martin also said Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Dail speech about that report on Thursday had shown he was "plugged in to the pulse of the people" and that he understood the absolute horror at what had happened in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Further firing power was directed at the Holy See when Carlow-based cleric Fr PJ Madden, a prominent member of the Association of Catholic priests, spoke out in favour of "an impressive" Mr Kenny in his trial of strength against Pope Benedict VI.

Fr Madden said bishops needed to sit down with government ministers to discuss the full extent of abuse in all dioceses and that the bishops needed to convene a national assembly to which priests and lay people would be invited to take part.

He added: "The Vatican should back off and let us solve the problems as an independent people."

Meanwhile, influential Catholic journalist and author Robert Blair Kaiser also applauded Mr Kenny's hard line. He said: "It is about time that some Irish leaders challenged the pretensions of the Vatican."

American Survivors of Abuse said no high-ranking government official anywhere in the world has denounced atrocities committed by church officials the way Mr Kenny has.

Speaking from Chicago, Barbara Blane commended Mr Kenny for being "the first government leader to demand accountability not only from his nation's bishops but from the Vatican".

She added: "We applaud his courage and we urge other world leaders to follow his example."

Survivors support group One In Four said it has received an overwhelmingly positive response to Mr Kenny's speech.

"I think people feel that at last the Irish government is taking charge and beginning to lay down markers as to what is acceptable in this State regarding the safety of children," director Maeve Lewis said.

Meanwhile, a senior bishop admitted peoples' trust in the church has been broken following mishandling of child abuse allegations by Newry native Bishop John Magee in Cloyne.

Bishop of Killaloe Kieran O'Reilly, who hails from Cobh, the centre of the Cloyne Diocese, said people's faith had been "rocked" by the scandal.

He added: "It was always a wonderful thing people did trust priests, but something has now snapped."

Background

The Taoiseach's attack followed the publication of the fourth report in six years into the Catholic Church's cover-ups of clerical abuse.

Cloyne Diocese in Co Cork is the latest part of the Church to be exposed, with ex-bishop John Magee - a Vatican aide to three Popes - singled out for misleading investigators.

On one occasion he was found to have written two different reports on an abuse allegation - one for Rome and one for diocesan records.

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