Ireland’s prime minister has said Catholic clerics would be prosecuted if they failed to tell the authorities about crimes disclosed during confession, the latest blow to the prestige of the once-dominant Church. A report this week found that the Church concealed from the authorities the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009, and that clerics appeared to follow Church law rather than Irish guidelines to protect minors.
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny told journalists on Thursday, referring to the hooked staff held by Catholic bishops during religious services. Kenny said his government would submit legislation to parliament that could jail clerics for up to five years if they failed to report to authorities information about the abuse of children.
The law will override the confessional privilege in Church law that prevents clerics from sharing information, he said. A series of revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore on Thursday summoned the Pope’s representative, the papal nuncio, after the report said that the Vatican had undermined Irish guidelines on reporting sex abuse by referring to them as “study guidelines.”