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Ireland denounces Vatican in abuse scandal

DUBLIN -- The Vatican encouraged Catholic bishops not to tell police about suspected pedophile priests and flouted Irish law, Ireland's lawmakers declared yesterday in an unprecedented denunciation of the Holy See's influence in this predominantly Catholic country.

The government and all opposition parties unanimously backed a motion accusing the Vatican of sabotaging the Irish bishops' 1996 decision to begin reporting suspected cases of child abuse to police.

"This is not Rome. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011, a republic of laws," Prime Minister Enda Kenny told lawmakers.

In a direct challenge to the Vatican, Kenny denounced what he called "the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism -- and the narcissism -- that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day." He said the church's leaders had repeatedly sought to defend their institutions at the expense of children, and to "parse and analyze" every revelation of church cover-up of crimes "with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer."

It was the first time that Ireland's parliament has lambasted the Vatican, rather than local church leaders, over the past 17 years of pedophile-priest scandals in Ireland. Those revelations have eroded Catholic authority in a nation where the church still owns most schools and several hospitals, and state broadcasters still toll a twice-daily call to Catholic prayer.

Kenny said Catholic canon law had "neither legitimacy nor [a] place in the affairs of this country." -- AP

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