July 21, 2011 / 8:59 PM / in 6 years

Vatican seeks objective debate on abuse after Irish rebuke

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican called on Thursday for objective debate over a child sexual abuse scandal in Ireland after the Irish prime minister denounced the Holy See as dysfunctional and narcissistic.

The Vatican spokesman said the Vatican would respond at the “opportune” time and place to a motion in the Irish parliament on Wednesday that rebuked the Holy See over allegations it helped cover up child abuse by its priests in Ireland.

In the first such official rebuke of the Vatican by Ireland, the lower house of parliament passed a motion deploring the Holy See for “undermining child protection frameworks.”

“We hope that the debate going on about such dramatic issues can develop with the necessary objectivity,” spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a reference to criticism by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Kenny told deputies on Wednesday that the “rape and torture of children were downplayed or managed to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.”

A report last week said Irish clerics concealed from the authorities the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009 after the Vatican disparaged Irish child protection guidelines in a letter to Irish Bishops.

“The Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism -- the narcissism -- that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day,” Kenny said.

Abuse victims praised Kenny for what they said was a courageous stand in the overwhelmingly Catholic country where the Church once wielded enormous political clout.

A series of revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Anger shifted from local bishops to Rome after it emerged that a letter from the Vatican to the Irish Bishops in 1997 appeared to diminish the Irish guidelines on reporting sex abuse by referring to them as “study guidelines.”

The Vatican has denied that the letter was an invitation to disregard Irish laws.

Politicians from all parties have criticised the Vatican in recent days and the government said last week Ireland’s embassy in the Vatican might be downgraded.

The report on the diocese of Cloyne in county Cork lists how the diocese failed to report all sexual abuse complaints to the police and did not report any complaints to the health authorities between 1996 and 2008.

The bishop formerly responsible for the diocese, John Magee, who had previously served as private secretary to three popes, falsely told the authorities that he was reporting all abuse allegations to the police, the report said.

Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin

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