The Vatican issued a stern rebuttal to the government of Ireland on Saturday, insisting that the Catholic Church had not instructed Irish clergy to thwart investigations of sexual abuse of children by priests.
The 11,000-word statement from the Vatican came in response to a scathing report by the Irish government in July. That report alleged that the church leadership had arranged to skirt legal inquiries and scrutiny of abuse in Ireland, allegations the Vatican today called "unfounded."
The Irish Times reports that church leaders are aiming to avoid trading barbs with the country's leaders, including Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who condemned the church in a speech to Parliament on July 20. The Vatican statement criticized that speech, and said its heated tone stemmed from a "misinterpretation" of a secret 1997 letter sent by the Vatican ambassador to the bishops of Ireland.
The Vatican and the country's government have been at odds since the speech, which triggered the Vatican to recall its Irish ambassador. Some outlets treated the Vatican statement as the continuation of hostilities on Saturday - The New York Times reported it as "the latest salvo" - but some attempted to strike a diplomatic tone.
Asked by The Irish Times if the Holy See had been offended by the Taoiseach’s [i.e. Kenny's] categorization of the Vatican as dominated by a culture of “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism”, Father Lombardi said: “You won’t get me to make controversial statements on that.”
“If you read the reply, you will see that it tries to avoid being polemical, in no way (does it) say ‘shut up’ to the objections (of both the Cloyne Commission and the Government).”
“Rather, the report wants to be objective because it proposes itself as a contribution to future co-operation and dialogue with the Irish Government.”
When asked about the Taoiseach’s allegation in his July 20th Dáil speech, that the Holy See had attempted to “frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic”, Father Lombardi was categoric.
“The Vatican is saying here that we have asked the Irish Government just what exactly the Taoiseach was referring to and they were not able to give us a response.”
The statement did little to assuage some critics of the Vatican's response to sexual abuse.
From The Guardian:
Maeve Lewis, the Irish director for the anti-child abuse campaign group One in Four, said the response was a let-down.
"Once again the Vatican has failed to take responsibility for a culture which prevails in the Catholic church which facilitates the sexual abuse of children," she said. .
"In the response, they seek to justify actions and present themselves as having been misunderstood, whereas people in the church were using Vatican writing and thinking to find a way to avoid reporting abuse to civil authorities.
"I hope the Irish government now maintains its stance, which represented Irish thinking."