“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Kenny told journalists July 14.
Such a proposition runs contrary to the internal law of the Catholic Church known as Canon Law. It says of confession that “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason,” with the punishment for such a breach being “a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”
Earlier this week a judicial inquiry into how the Diocese of Cloyne in County Cork mishandled alleged incidents of abuse, found nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which “very clearly” should have been reported to the authorities but were not. The inquiry – led by Judge Yvonne Murphy – said this was the “greatest failure” of the diocese.
The Cloyne Report also suggested that the diocese’s apparent disregard for the Irish Church’s 1996 guidelines on sexual abuse was aided by the decision by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to brand the document as merely “study guidelines.” The effect of this, said the report, was “to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the official stated Irish Church policy.”
Last night Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, met with the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to discuss the issue. Gilmore described the 1996 decision as “absolutely unacceptable” and “inappropriate” and is now demanding an explanation from the Vatican.
“I want to know why this state, with which we have diplomatic relations, issued a communication, the effect of which was that very serious matter of the abuse of children in this country was not reported to the authorities,” he told reporters after the meeting July 14.