News headlines resounded last week as Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny attacked the Vatican over its response to clergy sexual abuse. Reacting to the Cloyne report, which exposed the Vatican’s cover-up, failures and astounding mishandling of child abuse by Irish clergy, Ireland’s Prime Minister expressed unprecedented public fury.
Kenny’s harsh words for the Vatican and top church officials revealed sentiments that are rarely, if ever, heard from civil leaders. It’s about time! “The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold, instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation,” Kenny said, “this calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.”
With these remarks, Prime Minister Kenny took a brave public stance against the Vatican as he expressed frustration and anger while giving a voice to abuse survivors worldwide. Even some priests in Ireland declared awe and gratitude at Kenny’s proclamations, saying they too want admissions from the Vatican.
The Vatican’s Non-Response
While the rest of the world held high the Prime Minister’s denunciation and Ireland’s Foreign Minister called for a Vatican response to the Cloyne report, the Vatican sat back. In typical form, the Vatican will wait for an “opportune time” to issue a response, likely buying time for the media to cool off and the public to be distracted.
Meanwhile, the Vatican announced this morning that it is withdrawing its ambassador to Ireland. The move appears to be an attempt by the Vatican to consult with the ambassador prior to issuing an official response and addressing the Prime Minister’s concerns. To me, recalling its ambassador to Ireland is yet another example of the Vatican’s reactive, inattentive, and self-concerned approach to the clergy sex abuse crisis.
We cannot let the Vatican’s all-too-typical, yet nevertheless upsetting, trend toward denial and suppression overshadow Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s historic condemnation. It’s about time for the public and just as important, public officials, to speak up and act now. May our courageous leaders in Ireland and others around the world continue to call on the Vatican to make real change in the name of child protection.