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Irish government leaders launch broadside against Vatican

Catholic World News - July 20, 2011

Irish government leaders have lashed out against the Vatican, charging that Rome undermined efforts by the Irish bishops to crack down on abusive priests.

Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny denounced what he called “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism—and the narcissism—that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.” Justice minister Alan Shatter added that an unofficial Vatican response to criticism, issued in a statement by Father Federico Lombardi of the Vatican press office, was “disingenuous.” Ireland’s parliament, the Dáil, supported a resolution charging that the Vatican had interfered with the Irish bishops’ investigation of sex-abuse complaints.

Neither Kenny nor Shatter responded to the substance of Father Lombardi's statement. The Vatican spokesman had pointed out that in declining to approve policies that the Irish bishops had approved in 2005, the Congregation for Clergy had sought not to scuttle the Irish bishops' initiative, but to avoid conflicts with the Code of Canon Law. (For further details on Father Lombardi's statement see today's separate CWN headline story.)

In an address to the Dáil, Kenny vowed that he would move forward with a proposal to require priests to report any evidence of sexual abuse, even if they heard it in a sacramental confession. Dismissing Catholic warnings that such a requirement would force priests to violate the sacramental seal, Kenny said that the Church’s own law has “neither legitimacy nor a place in the affairs of this country.”

“This is not Rome,” the Taoiseach said. “This is the Republic of Ireland in 2011: a republic of laws.”

In his blistering speech, Kenny argued that Pope Benedict has shown no respect for civil law. He quoted the Pontiff: “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.” As columnist David Quinn pointed out, that quotation was pulled out of context, from a 1990 document on the vocation of the Catholic theologian; Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pontiff, was arguing that truths of the faith cannot be decided by majority vote. That argument, Quinn notes, has nothing to do with the subject of the Taoiseach’s tirade, and in citing it Kenny was distorting the public perception of the Pope’s stance:

The intention, quite obviously, was to inflict maximum damage on both the Vatican and the Pope regardless of the facts.

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  • Posted by: john1948 - Jul. 20, 2011 7:38 PM ET USA

    I think that these Irish politicians are trying to distract the Irish public from the fact that they have brought the Irish economy to the verge of collapse. The Irish banks are nearly insolvent. These politicians are desperate and attack the Church while the European Union wonders how much Ireland will cost it to avoid a financial calamity.

  • Posted by: Defender - Jul. 20, 2011 6:23 PM ET USA

    Let's see...crack down on Catholic priests in Ireland? Sounds like another time, doesn't it when the Brits hunted hedgerow priests? My, my how things haven't changed!

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