Enda Kenny is right to be angry, but wrong to misrepresent Pope Benedict

Enda Kenny’s speech about the Cloyne report in the Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, contained an unprecedented attack on the Vatican and Pope Benedict. He expresses  the anger and frustration that many feel about the appalling failure of the Diocese of Cloyne to protect children, and the past inertia of the Vatican. He is right to be angry with a clericalism that puts the status of clergy before the protection of children. He is right to be angry at any sign of narcissism and elitism among the clergy.

But the Taoiseach is wrong to misrepresent the words of Pope Benedict, and ignore the significant actions the Holy Father has taken to tackle child abuse.

David Quinn, the Director of the Iona Institute, criticizes Enda Kenny for attempting to distort the public perception of the Pope’s stance on child abuse:  ’The intention, quite obviously, was to inflict maximum damage on both the Vatican and the Pope regardless of the facts.’

For example, the conclusion of Enda Kenny’s speech falsely sought to portray Pope Benedict as advocating that the Catholic Church was above the laws of the state:

‘Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said: ‘Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.’

As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.’

Enda Kenny has taken out of context an extract from Cardinal Ratzinger’s document on the role of the theologian in the Church. As David Quinn explains Cardinal Ratzinger was stating that the Truth cannot be decided by a majority vote. Basically Cardinal Ratzinger was challenging theologians who use opinion poll arguments to justify dissent from the doctrines of the church. In the same paragraph as the extract quoted by Enda Kenny the cardinal wrote:

‘Polling public opinion to determine the proper thing to think or do, opposing the Magisterium by exerting the pressure of public opinion, making the excuse of a “consensus” among theologians, maintaining that the theologian is the prophetical spokesman of a “base” or autonomous community which would be the source of all truth, all this indicates a grave loss of the sense of truth and of the sense of the Church.’

As any fair minded reader can see Enda Kenny was wrong to use this extract as evidence that Pope Benedict believes that the Church is above the laws of the State.

Though he is obviously right to believe this about some bishops in the Church, such as Bishop Magee, the emeritus bishop of Cloyne, and others who have been exposed as hiding child abuse from the police, but this accusation cannot be made against Pope Benedict.

Protect the Pope comment: Enda Kenny misrepresents Pope Benedict’s position on child abuse by clergy by completely ignoring the actions and words of the Holy Father over the past six years to condemn the ‘filth’ of these crimes, to meet the victims of abuse, and to further tighten up the norms and rules dealing with allegations of child abuse.

The fact that Enda Kenny completely ignores Pope Benedict’s letter to the faithful in Ireland about the Church’s failure regarding child abuse is astounding.  Here’s what Pope Benedict wrote about the failure of Irish bishops:

‘It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.’

Enda Kenny completely ignores the Holy Father’s public statement that the bishops of Ireland must co-operate with the State regarding child abuse, by demanding that he makes such a commitment:

‘I believe that the Irish people…deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State’s authorities in line with the Children First National Guidance which will have the force of law.’

The Holy Father has already given that commitment and it is being carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding Children. The Taoiseach does acknowledge that the Irish Church is fully co-operating with the civil authorities in safe-guarding children. What he needs to do is publicly acknowledge the Holy Father’s role in bringing this co-operation about.




28 comments to Enda Kenny is right to be angry, but wrong to misrepresent Pope Benedict

  • Moemoe

    And yet, notice how the Pope feels it necessary to qualify every statement: Bishops are to cooperate with civil authorities “in their area of competence.” What does that mean? How might it be interpreted? Again, it gives the appearance that the Church reserves for itself the power and wisdom to decide which “areas” the civil authorities are “competent” in. It is not the attitude of someone committed to cooperating fully with the laws or government.

    • Deacon Nick

      Moemoe, I can see why this statement could cause confusion in those who do not know the history of the relationship between the Church and the State. The Church is not an institution of the State nor an agency of the State, she exists in her own right, pre-dating the existence of the nation state. This is what is meant by ‘area of competence’. It doesn’t mean that the Church will not co-operate with the state, nor its members will not obey the laws of each state. What it does mean is that the State has its area of authority or competence, and the Church has her area of authority or competence. Again, it is not the Church that determines the competence of the State, the State has these in its own right.

  • Tim

    Thank you for posting this. The Taoiseach’s speech is certainly impresssively powerful. I don’t want to get drawn into an argument about what the Vatican instructions to cooperate with the civil authorities mean and whether they go far enough, but I would say that the Taoiseach’s speach has a clarity and directness that is unfortunately lacking from anything I have read from the Vatican on this subject.

    If the Pope had delivered a speech on this subject with the cool rage, directness and crystal clarity of the Taoiseach then I would be equally impressed by him and you would not be getting bogged down in discussions as to the meaning of “area of competance” etc.

  • fd

    Two leading Italian Vaticanisti (journalists who cover the Vatican)Andrea Tornielli and Paolo Rodari have published a book which carries the title: Attacco a Ratzinger : Attack on Ratzinger . Their thesis is that Pope Benedict was condemned by leading sections of society in the whole western world(e.g the media and various lobbies)the very day he was elected Pope. They go through his first five years of pontificate(the book was published one year ago) and show how every Pope visit as well have a number of his messages,speeches and encyclicals have been misrepresented or distorted . Many cases are mentioned (for instance when a significant minority of Rome’s La Sapienza State Universiy teachers and students prevented the Pope from giving a speech there in 2008, despite most of the staff and the students wanted him to give a speech there.The latest episod mentioned in the book (written and published in2010) is the attack by the NYT on Pope Benedict. The book proposes several recostructions of the events which show there was no cover up, from Timothy Dolan’s reconstruction to Avvenire’s reconstruction (even though none of the authors are Avvenire journalists) .The central thesis is that padophile priests and other issues, including the Lefrevian Bishop who apparently denied holocaust in 2009 -the case had been once again used to put the Pope in difficulty- don’t really matter to the “attackers” of the Pope, according to whom the real and only “sin” of Pope Benedict is only one: having been elected Pope.

  • Irish Guy

    Facta non verba, Deacon Nick, are what were needed and were nowhere seen. The Irish Hierarchy suffered from the same malaise of authority as did the Vatican. The VII ‘mature christian who needs our love not our authority’ approach or perhaps the guilty conscience that has lost the grace or the courage to govern. The Vatican has sat back and done little or nothing to discipline the Irish Church, or the Dutch Church, or the Austrian Church, or the American Church, the Australian Church or any Church anywhere in the World, has said little, done little, enforced little. The faithful have been left prey to paedophiles, heretics, infidels, iconoclasts and so much more. This is simply an imperfect but wholly justifiable response to the state of the Church. It’s time we started to look at the problem and not the complainant… and yet how typical.

  • Kenny’s speech was big on grandstanding rhetoric, largely designed to placate the anti-Catholic Irish media & score cheap brownie points. They lapped up his anti Papal/Vatican hype. – in fact they could have written the speech for him !. But he totally downplayed the States much more serious negligence in this area. In the last decade 200 children died in State ” care ” in Ireland. No heads have rolled, in fact most of the media & political establishment have been relatively blase about same. The adage about people in glass houses was never so apt. Cheap, mob pleasing point scoring.

    • Tim

      Kenny’s speech was of course rhetoric. I would go so far as to say that it was a masterpiece of rhetoric. But is is exactly what is needed given the extent of the cleric abuse problem.

      As for the role of the state – read the speech and note that Kenny is highly critical of the state and proposes legislation to put right its past failing. It certainly wasn’t a speech that tried to let the state off its obligations to the children of Ireland. In fact it did the exact opposite. It was a statement that we are a soveriegn state and that we are taking responsibility for sorting this problem out and that nothing will stand in the way of our deterimation to make thinks better.

      • ms catholic state

        Let’s hope Mr Kenny’s ‘solution’ to the problem doesn’t involve a power grab by the State over the Church ie a covert attack on the Church. I bet it’s something like that he has in mind. Completely ignoring the wishes of ordinary faithful Catholics of course.

        But he must be careful. The Irish just might work out that they need God and the Church more than incompetent bumbling self interested politicians in the coming tough times ahead. And they might remember when they are staring years of emigration and unemployment in the face….that this wasn’t the doing of the Church…but other sources! Let’s see.

        • Tim

          It depends what you mean by power-grab.

          The problem in Ireland in the past wasn’t caused so much by lack of power over the church as the state failing to exercise the power it already had over the church (in investigating crimes etc) out of incompetance and misplaced respect.

          The irish church wasn’t legally above the law it is just that the state chose to act like it was (and logically that is a criticism far more of the state than it is of the church)

          So the state doesn;t need more power it juat needs to be more competant and confident in exercising that power.

  • ms catholic state

    I resent the way secular politicians are overlooking the wishes of practicising Catholics…..ie threatening the seal of Confession….without any concern for ordinary faithful Catholics.

    It seems only lapsed Catholics with a chip on their shoulder are being listened to in the cachophony! This is not to deny the seriousness of charges against members of the Church…..but to question the motives and sincerity of those politicians ‘grandstanding’? Quite frankly…..I don’t trust them nor am I convinced about their ‘concern’.

    • Tim

      I don’t think it is accurate to call Kenny a “lapsed catholic”. He strikes me as a serious and sincere believer.

      • ms catholic state

        Many Catholics are Catholic from habit or political advantage. And some of the most virulently anti-Catholics remain in the Church all their lives. I don’t know anything about Mr Kenny…..so I can’t comment on his Catholicism.

        But….I would trust the Pope to sort the whole problem out a million times more than I would trust Mr Kenny or any secular politician. I simply do not trust them or their motives.

  • Mary USA

    ms catholic state (that’s a scary name, btw, evocative of the goals of Catholic monarchists) writes of “secular politicians” as though politicians ought to be theocrats rather than officers of the state. The “wishes of practic[ing] Catholics,” in so far as they are in accord with justice, should count only equally with the wishes of all other citizens. The state cannot give special treatment to any religious group if it intends to protect the religious freedom of all. As the recent pedophile scandals demonstrate, Catholics have no special expertise in matters of justice or jurisprudence. And the new disclosure law poses no threat to any ordinary Catholic, only to criminals who confess their crimes against children to priests and to priests who protect such criminals from prosecution. The rights of victims, potential future victims, and of all citizens to equal justice under the laws of the state are not rights that require a nod from the Vatican or an OK from “ordinary Catholics.”

    • ms catholic state

      Mary….I am a Catholic and would rather politicians who were Catholic inspired not secular inspired…which proposes that all religions are equal.

      And why punish faithful Catholics….ie by trying to remove the seal of the Confessional….unless you have disrespect for them. Nasty and unjust in my opinion. Also a hilariously incompetent and unworkable move. Maybe Mr Kenny should try thinking before opening his mouth.

      I believe secularist’s main motivation is political gain. They don’t even have a 10 Commandments for pity’s sakes. And before you get carried away….remember…the Pope is the best person to sort out the problems of abuse in the Church. I am looking forward to what he will do on reading this report.

      • Tim

        “the Pope is the best person to sort out the problems of abuse in the Church.”

        Why has it taken him so long then? Ireland is fed up waiting for the Pope to get his house in order (if you do not believe this ask yourself why he chose to visit the UK and not Ireland – he wouldn;t dare visit Ireland at the moment – the people, many of home are ordinary faithful catholics are raging)

        • ms catholic state

          I don’t know if it has taken so long….I mean…the Pope had to wait for the release of this document like the rest of us didn’t he?!

          Who says the Pope wouldn’t dare visit Ireland?! The Irish can’t spend all their lives listening to the seductive lies of secular masters. As someone said…the next World Youth day should be held in Ireland. I bet the Pope would be well up for it. Let him visit Spain and then Germany first this year as scheduled….and who knows after that!

          • Tim

            “I don’t know if it has taken so long….I mean…the Pope had to wait for the release of this document like the rest of us didn’t he?! ”

            What!!! Are you really sayign that the Pope needed to see a document produced by an “evil secular” government to find out about the evils within the church? or to decide to put them right?

            I have no idea when the Pope will next visit ireland. But I would expect that it will only when the current rage agaist it has died down. I’d be loved to be proved wrong on this though.

  • Kenny’s vile speech is brilliantly attacked in today’s Irish Independent newspaper by both columnists David Quinn & Kevin Myers. The latter compares Kenny unfavourably to Ian Paisley during his most virulent anti-Catholic period. As a matter of fact the speech totally glossed over the much more serious cases of abuse relating to the State sector in Ireland. The anti-Catholic Irish media are totally lionising Kenny for his anti-Papal sentiments. It’s very much grist to their bigoted mill. Irish society has been substantially intellectually infantilised over the last 20/30 years. Thus Kenny’s childish petulance is described as the sign of ” a mature republic “. Pathetic really.

  • Eric Conway

    As an addendum to previous post. The most accurate news headline in connection with Kenny’s outburst, should have read – ” Known Liar, Attacks Vatican “. Just last week Kenny was revealed to have blatantly lied about a pre-election promise he made to retain a local hospital. So this is the calibre of individual who dares to ” take on ” the Vatican. I dont think Pope Benedict should worry unduly. Enjoy your holiday in Castelgandolfo, Holy Father.

  • Karla

    Vatican did not aid abuse cover-up in Ireland, says spokesman

    Fr. Federico Lombardi said claims that the Vatican encouraged Irish bishops to not report sex abuse cases to police are untrue and ignore everything the Holy See has done to the counteract the issue.

    “In attributing grave responsibility to the Holy See for what happened in Ireland,” Fr. Lombardi, S.J., wrote, “such accusations … demonstrate little awareness of what the Holy See has actually done over the years to help effectively address the problem.”

    Fr. Lombardi clarified that his comments were not an official Vatican response, which is scheduled to be issued soon.

    The Vatican spokesman made his remarks July 20 amid accusations by Irish lawmakers that a 1997 letter to Irish bishops sabotaged their child protection policy by instructing them to handle abuse cases strictly by canon law.

    The letter was highlighted in the recently issued report on the Diocese of Cloyne that identified nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which should have been reported by the authorities but were not.

    The July 13 Cloyne report is one of several government investigations conducted in the wake of frequently mishandled and covered-up abuse cases in the Irish Church.

    Prime Minister Enda Kelly harshly criticized the Vatican on Wednesday, saying that Church leaders are steeped in a climate of “narcissism” and sought to defend their institutions as opposed to protecting children.

    However, speaking to Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi argued that there is “no reason” to interpret the 1997 letter “as being intended to cover up cases of abuse.”

    He explained that the letter was written to the Irish bishops’ conference by the then-papal nuncio in Ireland.

    It detailed how their 1996 document “Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response” was problematic from a canon law perspective.

    Fr. Lombardi emphasized that the letter never told Irish bishops to only address abuse cases from a canon law approach, but that some of the canonical details in the protection policy needed to be amended to prevent them from being invalid.

    The letter “warned against the risk that measures were being taken which could later turn out to be questionable or invalid from the canonical point of view, thus defeating the purpose of the effective sanctions proposed by the Irish bishops,” he said.

    Fr. Lombardi also clarified that there “is absolutely nothing in the letter that is an invitation to disregard the laws of the country.”

    He said that any reference the letter had to bishops providing abuse information to police “did not object to any civil law to that effect” because civil law of that kind did not exist in Ireland at the time.

    The Vatican spokesman called the criticism by the government “curious,” saying it’s as “if the Holy See was guilty of not having given merit under canon law to norms which a State did not consider necessary to give value under civil law.”

    Fr. Lombardi was also critical of the accusations against the Vatican in light of everything Pope Benedict XVI has done to address the sex abuse problem in the Irish Catholic Church.

    He recalled the Pope’s “intense feelings of grief and condemnation” and that the pontiff spoke openly of his “shock and shame” at the “heinous crimes” committed.

    In addition to the Pope summoning the Irish bishops to the Vatican in December of 2009 and February of 2010, he also published a letter to the Catholics of Ireland “which contains the strongest and most eloquent expressions of his participation in the suffering of victims and their families, as well as a reminder of the terrible responsibility of the guilty and the failures of Church leaders in their tasks of government or supervision,” Fr. Lombardi said.

    An Apostolic Visitation of the Church in Ireland – divided into four visitations of the archdiocese, the seminaries and religious congregations – also followed the Pope’s letter and the “results of the visitation are at an advanced stage of study and evaluation,” he said


  • Please examine the Jehovah’s Witnesses who go door to door and come on our property.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses pedophiles.

    Many court documents and news events prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses require two witnesses when a child comes forward with allegations of molestation within the congregation. Such allegations have customarily been treated as sins instead of crimes and are only reported to authorities when it is required to do so by law, (which varies by state). It has also been shown that child molesters within the organization usually have not been identified to the congregation members or the public at large.
    These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles.

    Although the Watchtower Bible Tract Society claims that known pedophiles are accompanied by a non-pedophile in such work, there is no law stating that such a practice must be followed.

    The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.

    Danny Haszard abuse victim

  • capt balbo

    We are the Church. Not the Vatican, not the pope, not the bishops, not the priests, We are the church. And many of us on the ground have had to take the flack from non believers because those who run the institution were atrocious in their management of a situation which has not just afflicted the Vatican but other faith institutions around the world. We were not the only ones to get it wrong. Many more did but they managed their situation better. They paid the compensation, they didn’t hide the sin, if not the sinner, they learned the lesson and made ammends. We are no different than anyone in the rest of the world, we are humans and do you think for one moment if Jesus Christ was on earth today that he would be hiding behind semantics, bland statements, groups apologies and apostolic visitations? The current Pope is at the top of the Church structure for whatever reason – this situation more than any has made me deeply question my attendance to this particular faith and its raison d’etre. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I would most humbly submit that if he was around today, his words would most likely be more akin to Kenny’s than Benedict’s, he might be forgiving but he would not an institution that has systematically failed and is still failing to deal with the results of bad practice, vulnerable children pre and post puberty and careless minds that have seriously damaged so many. It is not Kenny who needs the work. It is us.

  • Sad Catholic Man!

    I believe economic woes such as pointed out by Eric Conway re hospital closures are something that should not enter this debate. I really believe this issue is much deeper. Enda Kenny described himself in the his speech as a practicing catholic so it would be difficult to describe him as being anti-catholic in his speech.

    While the speech may be described as being rhetoric, I genuinely believe that he put in his speech what I feel being an Irish Catholic today. I may not be a supporter or his politically but I applaud him for conveying effectively my feelings to the Vatican on my and others behalf.

    The Irish State are certainly at part fault but only for placing too much trust in the Catholic Church in Ireland in the first place. The evil people who committed these crimes were members of the Catholic Church and I truly believe that by extension it is the church that holds the greatest responsibility for the guilt of those crimes. The State is guilty of incompetence, and misplaced trust as it should not have allowed this special status that the Catholic Church has enjoyed and abused in Ireland for such a long period of time.

    As an Irish catholic person, I feel that many, many of our most innocent innocent children were gravely wronged by the Catholic Church and ignored and let down by the Irish State which is unforgivable. I know there are good priests out there. I was educated by decent catholic nuns and priests until I was 18 and they were truly people of God. But what was done to some Irish Children in days that are hopefully past was done under the cloak of that same organisation. The Catholic church had much too much power over our people and our culture for too long, and this is the backlash coming home to nest. If the Holy See believes that the Taoiseach’s speech was excessive, I firmly believe that it still has not come to terms with what was done in its name in Ireland and has failed to realise that such elitist attitudes are driving more and more people away from this church.

  • You are totally ignoring Kenny’s hypocricitial lying. It’s nothing to do with economic woes, what a lame excuse. That’s called special pleading. It wont work anymore, the gloves are off after Kenny’s sectarian/Paisleyite attack ( see Kevin Myers – Ir. Independent – 22.07.11 ). Also Kenny’s secular state, not the Church, oversaw the death of 200 children in State ” care “. So people in glass houses should’nt throw stones. Let he who is without sin, etc. Kenny has lost all credibility with this speech. He is merely the mouth-piece for an intolerant/bigoted/influetial/anti-Catholic section of society. His speech was an incitement to hatred & it is working. I have heard stories of Priests being abused & taunted because of it. He is a practicing Catholic who ignores virtually all of the Church’s teaching in his Party’s sociaL policy. He uses the mantle of Catholicism for cheap political advantage. So both a proven liar ( Roscommon Hospital ) & a hypocrite. He may speak for you, he certainly does’nt speak for me.

  • Dave Kirkwood

    At least the church acknowledge their very grave failures and are working to fix it.
    Google the Hollie Grieg case – the UK state frantically covering up
    very recent and serious abuse in Scotalnd. The legal profession,politicians there
    have thwarted investigations.The police -Arresting a journalist for just talking about it!!!!!!!!!!

    The Catholic Church is an easy target,this distracts nicely from the shambles the political elite
    have caused the people of this country.Ireland has LOST its sovreignty.
    They undemocratically foisted the Lisbon Treason upon the Irish People.
    Politicians have lined their own pockets, commited treason.
    Most of the media have aided and abetted them.

    They are lining us up for more taxes
    to pay their proud sponsors -the bankers.

  • Ulster Catholic

    What Kenny said makes me ashamed to be called an Irishman, I have returned my Irish passport and will be taking up a British one

  • Ulster Catholic

    PS please email the taoiseachs office as all he seems to be getting is approval for what he said . His email address is webmaster@taoiseach.gov.ie

  • Ned

    I am very annoyed over kennys attack on the head of our Catholic Church,
    Christs Vicar on earth,

    Ireland needs the Pope and the faith of our fathers,

    Who in penal Ireland died for the catholic faith,

    like some one said in another comment,
    World youth day should be held in Ireland,
    How do the people of Ireland go about inviting the pope to visit us?

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