|Enda Kenny said the rape and torture of children by clerics were downplayed or 'managed' by the church [Reuters]
The Irish Prime Minister has criticised the role of the Vatican over allegations that the Catholic church covered
up child abuse by its priests.
Enda Kenny said the recent Cloyne Report into how allegations of sex abuse by priests in Cork had been covered up showed change was urgently needed.
Kenny told his fellow Irish parliamentarians "the historic relationship between church and state in Ireland could not be the same again."
The report concluded that Irish clerics concealed from the authorities the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009 after the Vatican disparaged Irish child protection guidelines in a letter to Irish bishops.
Kenny said "the rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation."
Anger shifts to Rome
In the first such official rebuke of the Vatican, the lower house of parliament passed a motion deploring the church for "undermining child protection frameworks."
"The Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism - that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day," said Kenny in an unprecedented move by a senior Irish politician towards the church.
Anger shifted from local bishops to Rome after it emerged that a letter from the Vatican to the Irish bishops in 1997 appeared to diminish the Irish guidelines on reporting sex abuse by referring to them as "study guidelines".
Politicians from all parties have attacked the church and the government last week announced Ireland's embassy in the Vatican might be downgraded.
Opposition leader Michael Martin said that when he met the Papal Nuncio of the Vatican after the Murphy report into the cover-up of abuse in the Dublin diocese in 2009, he told him the government expected the full cooperation of the Vatican into the Cloyne inquiry.
However, he said, the Vatican chose to focus on the interests of the church rather than the children abused by its clergy and shielded by its leaders.
The two-year probe into the handling of complaints made between 1996 and 2009 in the largely rural Catholic diocese of Cloyne found the response of the authorities to be "inadequate and inappropriate."
The report was strongly critical of the failures of the former bishop of Cloyne John Magee, who had been private secretary to three successive popes. It said he had falsely told the authorities that he was reporting all abuse allegations to the police.
"Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal... the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it
with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer," said Edna Kenny as he read out the report findings to parliament.
A senior Vatican official on Wednesday offered "grief and condemnation" of the crimes described in the Cloyne report, but denied the church had encouraged Irish bishops to ignore the Irish guidelines.
"There is absolutely nothing in the letter that is an invitation to disregard the laws of the country," the director of the Vatican Press Office Father Federico Lombardi said in a letter published by the Irish Catholic church.
Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, has been rocked by a number of landmark reports on child sex abuse stretching back decades and by how church leaders' complicitly covered it up.