Why did the Vatican think a mere “study document” was sufficient response?

The Vatican’s response to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s power Dail speech has finally dropped on the mat. It’s quite a lengthy and detailed response (full text for those with the time). Unsurprisingly it rejects Kenny’s assertion that the Vatican was at fault.

As Siobhan Brett notes in the Sunday Business Post:

The Vatican response takes particular exception to the Taoiseach’s accusation that the Holy See ‘‘attempted to frustrate an inquiry as little as three years ago, not three decades ago’’, saying that the statement referred to nothing specific and that neither Cloyne nor any prior reports contain any information to support Kenny’s accusation.

However David Quinn was quick to note at the time what appears to caused the offence to Vatican officials, the selective use of a quotation from the Pope when he was Cardinal and charged with oversight of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Because Mr Kenny was speaking about clerical sex abuse the clear impression is given that this statement from the Cardinal – now Pope Benedict of course – was intended to justify the Church not following the laws of democratic countries concerning child protection. But the quote in question was made in a totally different context.

But the leader in the irish Times cuts to the real quick:

The central issue is a letter from the papal nuncio, Archbishop Luciano Storero, to the Irish Bishops Conference in January 1997. The nuncio described the framework document on child abuse, which urged full disclosure to the civil authorities, as “merely a study document” which could be “highly embarrassing and detrimental”. The Cloyne report finds that this letter gave succour to those within the church who did not wish to comply with the new framework.

In essence, the Vatican’s argument in its response is that the framework was indeed a study document rather than an official and binding statement of church policy. This begs a basic question. Given that the Vatican was heavily involved in the drawing up of the framework document, why did it think a mere “study document” was a sufficient response to such a grave crisis?

Indeed. Or as Stephen Kinsella put it on Marian Finucane’s show yesterday morning, the church’s problem here is that is being seen to resort to the letter of the law rather than embracing the spirit of the problem.

[Note: this blog is an attempt to discuss a serious problem seriously. It’s not for frivolous attacks on the Church by those who already hold it in low esteem.]

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty