Ireland stands by criticism of Vatican on paedophile priests

Ireland’s deputy prime minister has accused the Vatican of missing the point after the Holy See rejected claims it had frustrated a state inquiry into clerical abuse.

Eamon Gilmore, Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister, said the real issue was that the Catholic Church did not deal effectively with paedophile priests.

Amid calls for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to explain why he accused the Vatican of interfering with investigations as recently as three years ago, Mr Gilmore refused to back down.

“I think it probably misses the point,” he said.

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“There was the most horrific sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clerics. The Catholic Church did not deal with that as it should have dealt with it.

“Let’s not be distracted. Let’s not miss the point – no less charges were made.

“The Taoiseach and the Government stand over what was said.”

The deepening diplomatic row between the Irish Government and the Vatican was sparked by fractured relations during an inquiry into the handling of child abuse allegations in the Cloyne Diocese in Cork.

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The Taoiseach claimed in the Dail on July 20 that the Holy See attempted to frustrate an inquiry by warning the chairman to use diplomatic channels to seek answers from the Vatican.

The church in Rome responded on Saturday with a 25-page document rejecting accusations of interference. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin also called for an explanation.

But Mr Gilmore insisted: “When the Taoiseach spoke in the Dail, the Taoiseach was speaking for the Government and he was speaking I believe for the people of this country

“The abuse of children is not acceptable. The abuse of children is intolerable. And those who didn’t discharge their responsibility to make sure that it stopped, or that those who were responsible for it were brought to book, they have a case to answer and the Government makes no apology for stating that in the unambiguous terms that it was stated by the Taoiseach.”

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The Vatican has been embroiled in the diplomatic row over its treatment of an inquiry into abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese. The Holy See did not reply after the inquiry wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In an unusual move in July, the Vatican’s Papal Nuncio in Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, was recalled to Rome to prepare the response to criticisms which focused on the hierarchy’s failure to follow child-protection guidelines, including reporting to civil authorities.

In its long-awaited response, the Vatican flatly rejected accusations from Mr Kenny that it attempted to frustrate the state inquiry into Cloyne.

But Mr Gilmore said the Government was not going to be dragged into a prolonged semantic debate over the use of language.

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“As a government we are entitled to and we will stand by the people who are victims in those cases, their families and we will ensure that that kind of abuse will not happen again,” the Tanaiste said.

Mr Gilmore said the Government was determined to press ahead with tough new child protection measures, including making it an offence to withhold information about crimes against children and introducing new vetting to allow “soft information” transfers.

Mr Kenny has not yet issued a detailed response to the Vatican’s statement, but said he did not regret making his Dail speech.

The Cabinet is likely to discuss the Vatican document when it meets on Thursday after the coalition Government partners, Fine Gael and Labour, hold separate two-day party meetings ahead of the new Dail term.