In Ireland, Words of Prime Minister ‘Touched a Chord’ With Public

BY Larisa Epatko  July 26, 2011 at 5:03 PM EDT

Ireland’s prime minister drew much praise throughout the heavily Catholic country when he criticized the Vatican for putting Church law above state law when dealing with child abuse allegations.

A recent 426-page document, known as the Cloyne report, detailed how the Catholic Church went around state officials when handling allegations of child abuse against clerics in the Cloyne diocese in County Cork in southern Ireland.

The report prompted a rare rebuke by Irish lawmakers.

“This is not Rome. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011, a republic of laws,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny told lawmakers last week. He called the actions of the Catholic Church “absolutely disgraceful.”

“The Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism — that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day,” Kenny said.

“He touched a chord with the Irish people,” Conor O’Clery, GlobalPost correspondent in Dublin, told us by telephone. “There have been a series of reports, one on top of the other, and people have been smoldering with anger as each report shows abuse, cover up, abuse, cover up.”

Kenny’s words had a powerful impact on the Irish people, O’Clery continued, because the prime minister himself is a middle-class practicing Catholic from the west of Ireland — the type of person who has always been the mainstay of the Catholic Church.

In the country that was once described by Pope Paul VI as the most Catholic country in the world, people had gotten used to politicians fearing to go against the Catholic Church. But that has changed in light of the child abuse scandal, said O’Clery.

It also has become a question of Irish national sovereignty, he noted.

“Ireland has had to endure the humiliation of losing some of its sovereignty to the International Monetary Fund and the Central European Bank because it had to seek a bailout,” O’Clery said. “So here you have the prime minister standing up to another world power — the Vatican — expressing the Irish belief in the laws of its republic, and saying the Canon Law will not take precedence, and that the Vatican has to stop interfering in the sovereign independence of the Irish state.”

The Vatican on Monday recalled its envoy to Ireland, Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza, for consultations as a first step toward developing an official response to the Cloyne report and reaction to it, the Vatican said.

Photo of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny by Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images.

We’ll have the latest on the fallout in Ireland on Tuesday’s NewsHour. View all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter.