The latest report on sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland lays the problem firmly on the pope’s doorstep: “The reaction of the Vatican to the Framework Document was entirely unhelpful to any bishop who wanted to implement the agreed procedures.” The Framework Document was drafted in 1996 to establish procedures for handling abuse cases. But the Congregation for the Clergy refused to “recognize” it, principally because it included a mandatory reporting requirement. A confidential communication to this effect gave license to Bishop of Cloyne John Magee (and any other bishop who didn’t like the Framework) to decline to report cases that came to his attention–leading to his resignation in 2009. What the Cloyne Report does is connect the dots.
The Irish government now seems prepared to deal with Vatican, Inc. the way the English government is dealing with News International Ltd. The papal nuncio has been dressed down. An apology has been demanded from Rome. There is talk of closing the embassy in Vatican City. And parliament is poised to require reporting of evidence of abuse to the civil authorities, including such evidence as emerges under seal of the Confessional.
As Ann Doyle of BishopAccountability.org points out, the Cloyne Report is “eerily similar” to the report of the Philadelphia grand jury report earlier this year, which detailed that archdiocese’s flouting of national norms for the handling of abuse cases. But unlike Bishop Magee, Cardinal Justin Rigali remains in office, as has almost every other bishop who has failed to deal properly with abuse cases.
In response to the Cloyne Report, nuncio Giuseppe Leanza, saying he was “very distressed myself again by the failures in assuring the
protection of children within the church despite all the good work that
has been done,” asserted “the total
commitment of the Holy See for its part to taking all the necessary
measures to assure protection.” But protection of whom? What’s dragging the Church ever deeper into disrepute is not the abuse of
children by priests but Rome’s failure to deal forthrightly and strictly with the bishops who cover it