Vatican City, Jul 20, 2011 / 12:59 pm
Fr. Federico Lombardi said claims that the Vatican encouraged Irish bishops to not report sex abuse cases to police are untrue and ignore everything the Holy See has done to the counteract the issue.
“In attributing grave responsibility to the Holy See for what happened in Ireland,” Fr. Lombardi, S.J., wrote, “such accusations … demonstrate little awareness of what the Holy See has actually done over the years to help effectively address the problem.”
Fr. Lombardi clarified that his comments were not an official Vatican response, which is scheduled to be issued soon.
The Vatican spokesman made his remarks July 20 amid accusations by Irish lawmakers that a 1997 letter to Irish bishops sabotaged their child protection policy by instructing them to handle abuse cases strictly by canon law.
The letter was highlighted in the recently issued report on the Diocese of Cloyne that identified nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which should have been reported by the authorities but were not. The July 13 Cloyne report is one of several government investigations conducted in the wake of frequently mishandled and covered-up abuse cases in the Irish Church.
Prime Minister Enda Kelly harshly criticized the Vatican on Wednesday, saying that Church leaders are steeped in a climate of “narcissism” and sought to defend their institutions as opposed to protecting children.
However, speaking to Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi argued that there is “no reason” to interpret the 1997 letter “as being intended to cover up cases of abuse.”
He explained that the letter was written to the Irish bishops' conference by the then-papal nuncio in Ireland. It detailed how their 1996 document “Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response” was problematic from a canon law perspective.