On Monday I analyzed how the Vatican, in its response to the Irish Government about the Cloyne sex abuse report, had said only that its Bishops should “cooperate” with the Irish civil authorities, and had failed to say that they should “cooperate fully”. Since then the Irish Government has twice highlighted this important distinction. On Tuesday Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that “the failure of the church to fully cooperate with the inquiry” amounted to unwarranted interference, and that “nothing less than full cooperation” was required.
And in a statement yesterday the Irish Government said that the 1997 letter from the Papal Nuncio to Irish Bishops provided a pretext for some members of the clergy to “evade full co-operation with the Irish civil authorities” in relation to clerical child abuse. The Government welcomed the commitment of the Holy See to “a constructive dialogue and cooperation with the Government”, and added that “In welcoming this commitment, the Government expects the fullest cooperation” from the Holy See, the Catholic Church in Ireland and all other relevant bodies.
This distinction is important because the Vatican’s omission of the word “fully” is not an accident. In 1997 the Dublin Archdiocese issued a press statement claiming that it had “cooperated with police” in relation to a child abuse case. When later challenged about this, the Archdiocese said that they had not lied because “we never said we cooperated ‘fully’, placing emphasis on the word ‘fully’.” And the latest Vatican document calls on Bishops to “fully implement” canon law but merely to “cooperate” with the civil authorities.
We must be absolutely clear about this. Full cooperation with the civil authorities is what is required from the Catholic Church. Not cooperation so long as it is consistent with canon law. And not the barest minimum of cooperation to technically comply with the strict letter of the law. We need the fullest possible cooperation, the type of cooperation that we would expect from good citizens who want to actively help the civil authorities, aimed at bringing to justice anybody who has raped or abused children, and anybody who has covered up or facilitated these crimes.