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Statement on the Response by the Holy See to the Report on Catholic Diocese of Cloyne

I have today received the response which the Government requested from the Holy See when I met with the Apostolic Nuncio immediately following the publication of the Cloyne Report.

The Response is a detailed one, running to 25 pages which will be carefully studied by the Government. Today it is possible only to give an initial reaction:

I acknowledge the declaration by the Holy See that it is “sorry and ashamed” for the terrible suffering of victims of child abuse in Ireland and their families and the various other indications in the Response of the seriousness with which the Holy See views the appalling evidence of such abuse which has taken place in the Diocese of Cloyne and elsewhere.

However some of the argumentation advanced by the Holy See in its Response is very technical and legalistic. The Government’s concerns were never about the status of church documents but rather about the welfare of children.  

In relation to the Framework Document, I remain of the view that the 1997 letter from the then Nuncio provided a pretext for some to avoid full cooperation with the Irish Civil authorities.

The sexual abuse of children is such a heinous and reprehensible crime that issues about the precise status of documents should not be allowed to obscure the obligation of people in positions of responsibility to deal promptly with such abuse and report it.

The sense of betrayal which was felt by Irish people about this matter, and which was clearly expressed by the Taoiseach, came about not only because of the nature of child abuse itself but also because of the unique position which the Catholic Church enjoyed in this country, manifested in many ways, over many decades.      

In conclusion, the Holy See have suggested continuing dialogue and cooperation about these issues and I will work to progress this, above all with a view to promoting child welfare and ending the appalling scourge of clerical abuse.