Widespread anger erupted in Ireland over the summer after the Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Diocese of Cloyne, released in July, claimed that the Vatican was guilty of attempting to cover up sexual abuse cases in that country as recently as three years ago.
The 400-page Cloyne report found that Bishop John Magee of Coyne, who resigned in 2010, ignored the 1996 child protection guidelines set down by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference and failed to report to the police at least nine of 15 sexual abuse allegations in that period.
Furthermore, it found that the "reaction of the Vatican" to the efforts of the Irish bishops to respond to child abuse allegations was "unhelpful to any bishop who wanted to implement the agreed procedures."
The report cited a 1997 letter sent to the Irish bishops' conference by then-nuncio Archbishop Luciano Storero (1926-2000), who stated that the Congregation for Clergy considered the child protection guidelines outlined in "Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response" as a mere "study document," and that it contained "procedures and dispositions which appear contrary to canonical discipline."
"In particular," the nuncio's letter added, "the situation of 'mandatory reporting' gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature."
The Cloyne report noted that this letter "effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed."
The prime minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, called the Cloyne report "a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children."
Speaking to Ireland's lower house of Parliament, or Dail, Kenny noted that the report showed how "the rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation.'"
He said that the "revelations of the Cloyne report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture," and added that the government "awaits the considered response of the Holy See."
In a 11,000-word statement released Saturday, the Vatican offered a detailed response to the Cloyne Report, which it said it "carefully examined."
The report, the Holy See acknowledged readily, "brought to light very serious and disturbing failings in the handling of accusations of sexual abuse of children and young people by clerics in the Diocese of Cloyne."
It continued: "The Holy See wishes to state at the outset its profound abhorrence for the crimes of sexual abuse which took place in that Diocese and is sorry and ashamed for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure within the Church of Jesus Christ, a place where this should never happen."
Addressing directly the question regarding the 1997 letter from the nuncio, the Holy See clarified that the description of the framework document on abuse cases as a study document was based on information provided by the Irish Bishops' Conference, and that it never gave formal approval of the document because the conference never asked for it.
Regarding the issues concerning mandatory reporting, the Vatican said the Congregation for Clergy "offered advice to the Bishops with a view to ensuring that the measures which they intended to apply would prove effective and unproblematic from a canonical perspective."
"The Congregation did not reject the Framework Document," the response continued. "Rather, it wanted to ensure that the measures contained in the Framework Document would not undermine the Bishops’ efforts to discipline those guilty of child abuse in the Church."
"The Congregation for the Clergy did express reservations about mandatory reporting," the statement added, "but it did not forbid the Irish bishops from reporting accusations of child sexual abuse nor did it encourage them to flout Irish law."
The document of the Holy See then quoted then prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, in his meeting with the Irish Bishops in 1998: "I also wish to say with great clarity that the Church, especially through its Pastors (Bishops), should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice, when such is initiated by those who have such rights, while at the same time, she should move forward with her own canonical procedures, in truth, justice and charity towards all."
With regard to the specific comments made by Kenny, the Holy See refuted as unfounded 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."
"In this regard," the statement continued, "the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.
"Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties."
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