Response of the Holy See to the Cloyne Report

Comments from Bishop Smith (below) following the Response of the Holy See to the Cloyne Report.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to make a comment on the comprehensive response of the Holy See to the Cloyne Report and the speech of the Taoiseach in the Dáil. It is a reasoned, measured and well sourced document that merits careful reading.  The text is available in full at

1. All States and bodies within States have grappled with the evil of the abuse of children by adults. The difficulty successive Irish Governments have had in framing legislation and drafting a constitutional amendment highlights these difficulties. The Holy See statement refers to unsuccessful efforts made by the Irish Government in 1997 in this regard. In 1996 the Irish Bishops published its first document on the handling of allegations of abuse. It obliged Bishops and Religious Superiors to cooperate fully with the civil authorities and to report all allegations to the Gardai and the HSE, even though civil law does not yet impose such an obligation.

2. Both the Cloyne Report and various comments surrounding its publication spoke about the lack of ‘recognitio’ from the Holy See to this 1996 document. There was no doubt in our minds as Bishops at that time that this was not a ‘study document’ but a set of procedures which all were expected to observe.  Bishops never sought a ‘recognitio’ from the Holy See as that would set the procedures in stone, and could prevent them from later amendment and development in the light of experience. In fact, since them, there have been two major revisions of this original document. The Holy See response notes that some of the comments indicate a lack of understanding of the procedures governing the Church’s own internal law.

3. In his speech Mr. Kenny complained that the Cloyne Report ‘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’. When invited to substantiate this serious allegation, Government representatives were unable to do so. The response from the Holy See addresses this allegation in considerable detail and clearly shows that this claim is untrue and without foundation.

Further on in his speech Mr. Kenny takes a sentence from of a document signed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in May 1990 on the ‘Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian’ totally out of context and applies it to child abuse. This document affirmed the age-old teaching of the Church that it does not take its teaching from the State or from popular opinion but from the teaching of Jesus Christ.  It is regrettable that the Taoiseach should show such discourtesy to Pope Benedict by taking a sentence from a long paragraph and applying it to a specific topic that this document in question was not addressing.

4. The Holy See response makes clear the Church’s commitment to the protection of children by cooperating with the civil authorities and ensuring that our own internal best practice is maintained.  I take this opportunity to thank those in our parishes who help us to make the Church a safe and welcoming place for children to be involved today.  I ask you to join with me in praying for all who have been hurt and betrayed in their childhood that they may one day experience healing and peace.’

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