DUBLIN, July 25, 2011 ( – In a speech in the Dail, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has attacked the Vatican, accusing it of obstructing efforts to protect children from clerical abusers, and of interfering in a “sovereign, democratic republic.”

Following the publication of an independent judicial report, the fourth of its kind, on the cover-up of abuse of minors in the Cloyne diocese, a tide of outrage and anger has gripped the Irish public, some of whom are calling for the arrest of the former Cloyne bishop, John Magee.

The Cloyne report highlighted a letter in which the Vatican described the Irish bishops’ 1996 guidelines for dealing with allegations of abuse as a “study document,” and not a binding set of rules. Vatican authorities had pointed out that the Irish guidelines had not sufficiently safeguarded the rights of accused priests to civil or canonical due process.

This letter was the basis of Enda Kenny’s attack on the Vatican. Kenny called the letter an “attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago.”

He also accused the Vatican of placing canon law above civil law and having “downplayed or managed” the “rape and torture of children … to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation.’”

Kenny said that “the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who – like me – have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the state’s authorities.”

This confirmation, however, has already been given. In 2001, Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Joseph Ratzinger, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued norms for the Church worldwide making clear that “civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.”

The Cloyne report found, however, that two-thirds of abuse allegations made between 1996 and 2009 were not passed on to police, as required by the Irish Church’s guidelines and Cardinal Ratzinger’s clear norms.

While Kenny has focused on the Vatican, the four reports published by the Murphy Commission have specifically named four Irish bishops as the culprits behind the lack of reporting of abuse. The investigation into the Cloyne diocese found that “the primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee.”

“It is a remarkable fact,” the report notes, “that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008.”

“The commission recognises that the church guidelines were far more stringent than those adopted by the State in that they required that all allegations against priests operating in a diocese be reported to the health authorities as well as to the gardaí,” the Cloyne report said.

Public outrage against the Irish Catholic leadership, particularly against the bishops, is likely behind the absence of any official response from the Conference of Irish Catholic bishops to the suggestion by ministers that priests who refuse to disclose information gained in confession could be jailed.

On July 13th Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced that the government will finally install rules making reporting mandatory throughout Ireland. These, they said, will apply even to priests who learn of abuse in the confessional – even though confession is governed by the strictest secrecy under Church law.

The Cloyne report also pointed to a lack of co-operation from the Department of Children with the committee’s investigation – a finding that has received little attention. The department, the Cloyne report said, took refuge in legal confidentiality privileges and refused to disclose the nature of legal advice it had received pertaining to its authority in cases of abuse by non-family members. On the strength of that advice and despite the concerns of individual social workers, the department, the report said, claimed that the law was already sufficient to protect children from non-familial abusers.

The Cloyne Report is the fourth in a series of judicial investigations into decades of sexual, physical and psychological abuse of young people in parishes, orphanages and workhouses. In the first half of the 20th century, the secular authorities paired with the Church to create these institutions throughout Ireland, ostensibly for the care and correction of young people. These included the notorious laundries where young women who were suspected of immoral behavior were incarcerated.