The Vatican labels reaction to an inquiry into child abuse in the Catholic church “excessive” after recalling the Pope’s ambassador to Ireland.
Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, the Pope’s representative in Dublin, has already returned to Rome.
A Vatican press officer said his withdrawal should be seen as a measure of the gravity of the situation. “(This does not) exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions,” he said. But he added that the Holy See wanted to work with the Irish government on the issue.
The move reflects the heightened tensions between the Vatican and Ireland just days after the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, made an unprecedented speech condemning the Vatican, in which he said that allegations that some priests abused children had been mishandled.
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. Irish PM Enda Kenny
Mr Kenny said: “The rape and torture of children was downplayed, or managed, to uphold instead the primacy of the institution – its power, standing and reputation.”
Last week, the Irish parliament passed a motion deploring the Vatican’s role in “undermining child protection frameworks” following publication of a damning report on the diocese of Cloyne in county Cork.
The “Cloyne report” said that Irish clerics concealed from authorities the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009. It claimed the Vatican disparaged mandatory child protection guidelines, and referred to them as “study guidelines” in a letter to Irish bishops.
Two weeks ago, the Irish foreign affairs minister Eamon Gilmore ordered Archbishop Leanza to take a message to the Vatican which said the Irish government believed its conduct to have been disgraceful and unacceptable.
Mr Kenny said the latest revelations had exposed a dysfunctional, elite hierarchy determined to frustrate investigations, and he said that religion does not rule Ireland.
“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,” he said.
The Vatican has denied that the letter was an invitation to disregard Irish laws.