Ireland pushes priests to report confessed sex abuse

July 15, 2011

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Ireland's prime minister said Catholic priests could
be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse crimes they hear during
the sacrament of confession, regardless of the confidentiality imposed
by church law.

"The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or by a
collar," said Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Thursday (July 14), a day
after a government-sponsored commission criticized a bishop for failing
to report allegations of clerical sex abuse. 

A report published on Wednesday faulted the Diocese of Cloyne for
failing to inform police about 15 allegations of clerical sex abuse from
1996-2009, including two cases in which the alleged victims were still
minors at the time of the accusations.

The report also characterized the Vatican as "entirely unhelpful,"
for downplaying the child protection policies that Irish church leaders
established in 1996. The report concluded that, in the case of Cloyne,
those policies were "not fully or consistently implemented."

On Thursday, Ireland's foreign minister summoned the papal nuncio,
the Vatican's official representative in the country, to respond to
those criticisms.

The Cloyne inquiry is the fourth major probe by the Irish government
of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church since 2003. The
investigations have revealed widespread child abuse over several decades
by clergy and members of religious orders, leading to the resignations
of three bishops.

Bishop John Magee, who served as bishop of Cloyne during the period
covered by the report, stepped down from active duty in March 2009, and
resigned a year later. He publicly asked "forgiveness and pardon" for
his failure to prevent sex abuse.