04 September 2011

Vatican's response to Irish Government

The Irish Times carries the video above of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin giving his comments to the press on the Response of the Holy See to the Government of IrelandTaoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny alleged in the Dáil (Irish parliament) that the Holy See had attempted 'to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago'. Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore told Papa Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza 'that the Vatican had intervened to effectively have priests believe they could in consicence evade their responsibilities under Irish law'.

The response of the Holy See is measured and lacking rancour. Archbishop Martin says of Mr Kenny's comments in the Dáil and the subsequent comments by is office 'merits explanation'.

I think that Mr Kenny's speech acted as a conduit for the anger that so many Irish people felt, including those who have stayed in the Church - and the Taoiseach spoke as one of them - and perhaps brought it home to some in the Vatican that this whole situation has done enormous damage to the Church and to its ability to carry out its mission.

Archbishop Martin notes favourably that the new Irish government is the first in the history of the state to set up a cabinet ministry for children. (The cabinet is constitutionally limited to 14 members).

I hope that this diplomatic row has cleared the air to some degree and that it will help Church and State to work together for the sake not only of those who have already been hurt but for the sake of children in the future. I hope too that all involved directly will listen to Archbishop Martin's plea that this not become another opportunity for polemics, which helps no one, least of all those who have been abused.

But more reports are on their way, that of the Diocese of Raphoe in the north-west of the country and one of the Garda Síochána, the Irish police force, that has been looking at records of their own going back 80 or 90 years.

The 'one or two bad apples' doesn't wash anymore. But I know that the vast majority of Irish priests are upright and honest men. We have seen from examples in Belgium, Austria and the USA that it is possible for a man to imprison and abuse his own children for years without the next door neighbours knowing. But it's also possible for a community to turn its eyes from awful abuse within families, as two recent examples in Ireland, where the perpetrator was the mother, have shown. Mr Kenny referred to one such case in his Dáil speech. There have been similar cases in England in recent years when social workers could have prevented the deaths of children but didn't.

And the awful reality remains that the victims of priests in Ireland are fewer that four percent of all victims of sexual abuse, according to the 2002 Savi Report, Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland.

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