The Vatican has rejected claims by Irish PM Enda Kenny that it sabotaged efforts by Irish bishops to report child-molesting priests to police.
It follows the damning Cloyne Report that showed how allegations of clerical sex-abuse in Cork had been covered up.
In a speech to parliament in July, Mr Kenny accused the Church of putting its reputation ahead of abuse victims.
The Vatican said it was “sorry and ashamed” over the scandal but said his claims were “unfounded”.
“The Holy See is deeply concerned at the findings of the commission of inquiry concerning grave failures in the ecclesiastical governance of the diocese of Cloyne,” said the Vatican, in a detailed response to the allegations.
“The Holy See… in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.”
“Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.”
Mr Kenny had told the Irish parliament that the report into how allegations of sex abuse by priests in Cork had been covered up showed change was urgently needed.
Enda Kenny accused the Catholic Church of putting its reputation ahead of child rape victims
“The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’,” he said.
Parliament then passed a motion deploring the Holy See for “undermining child protection frameworks” after a letter to Irish bishops appeared to diminish Irish guidelines on reporting sex abuse by referring to them as “study guidelines”.
The Vatican then recalled its special envoy in Dublin, Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza, to discuss the impact of the report.
But the Holy See’s response, published on Saturday, said Mr Kenny’s blistering accusations were based on a misinterpretation of a 1997 Vatican letter expressing “serious reservations” about the Irish bishops’ 1996 policy requiring bishops to report abusers to police.
“In a spirit of humility, the Holy See, while rejecting unfounded accusations, welcomes all objective and helpful observations and suggestions to combat with determination the appalling crime of sexual abuse of minors,” said the statement.
Released in July, the 400-page Cloyne Report found that Bishop John Magee – who stood down in March 2009 after serving as bishop of Cloyne since 1987 – had falsely told the government and the health service that his diocese was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities.
It also found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisors by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspected of abusing a child – one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files.
It discovered that, contrary to repeated assertions on its part, the Diocese of Cloyne did not implement the procedures set out in the Church protocols for dealing with allegations of child sex-abuse. It said the greatest failure was that no complaints, except one in 1996, were reported to the health authorities until 2008.
It said the disturbing findings were compounded by the fact that the commission found that the Vatican’s response to the Church guidelines was entirely unhelpful and gave comfort and support to those who dissented from the guidelines. It said this was “wholly unacceptable”.