Vatican’s Response to Cloyne Report

The Vatican’s response to the Cloyne Report was disturbing on a number of levels.  It was disturbing in that it treated the problem of sexual abuse as though it were merely a problem in the Cloyne diocese.

One interesting claim in the Vatican’s response was this:

Since the early days of the Irish State and especially since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1929, the Holy See has always respected Ireland’s sovereignty, has maintained cordial and friendly relations with the country and its authorities, has frequently expressed its admiration for the exceptional contribution of Irish men and women to the Church’s mission and to the betterment of peoples throughout the world, and has been unfailing in its support of all efforts to promote peace on the island during the recent troubled decades.


This claim to have always respected Ireland’s sovereignty was a response to an assertion by Ireland’s prime minister that “for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism … the narcissism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

It is interesting that the Vatican picked 1929.  While the Vatican’s meddling in European political affairs was well known during the middle ages and into the era of the Reformation, perhaps it is less well known that the Vatican continued this same agenda into the 20th century.

As Francis Hackett reports:

Under Pope Pius X the church certainly did not mince matters as to the primacy of church authority. In the decree of October 9, 1911, the vatican issued its ordinance concerning the freedom of Catholics to exercise their legal rights as against priests, and it declared ” that any person who without permission from an ecclesiastical authority summons before a lay court of justice any ecclesiastical person in any case, civil or criminal, incurs instant excommunication. The excommunication takes place automatically and absolution is reserved to the Pope himself.”

(source – internal quotation from De Trahentibus Clericos ad Tribunalia Iudicum Laicorum of Pius X)

Nearly one hundred years later, we see a significant backing off of Rome’s attempts to control the equal protection of law through the mechanism of automatic excommunication.   Nevertheless, decrees like that created a culture in Ireland (and elsewhere – De Trahentibus Clericos was not limited to Ireland) that clergy were essentially not subject to the same criminal laws as the rest of the people in majority Roman-communion countries.

Yet the Vatican’s response to the Cloyne Report does not take responsibility for this culture of “above the law,” but instead attempts to distance the Vatican itself from the problems that its policies have caused.


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