Irish bishops have made progress in protecting children following decades of clerical sex-abuse scandals and are fulfilling a pledge to quickly report new cases, a Vatican report said on Tuesday.
"The archbishops... gave assurances that all newly discovered cases of abuse are promptly brought before the competent civil authority and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," said the report into the Irish Church's implementation of new Vatican guidelines for dealing with paedophile priests.
The predominantly Catholic country has been rocked by several landmark reports into hundreds of child sex abuse cases stretching back decades, and on Church leaders' complicity in covering it up by not reporting cases to the police.
Public anger at the cover-up sparked a diplomatic row, with Prime Minister Enda Kenny accusing the Vatican of "dysfunction, disconnection and elitism", and culminated in Dublin withdrawing its ambassador to the Vatican. The Irish government last year accused the Church of attempting to block inquiries by authorities.
Vatican investigators sent to Ireland last year to examine the Church's response to the crisis said they were "struck by the efforts made throughout the country" to implement new Vatican guidelines on dealing with sex abuse. "The results of these efforts were judged to be excellent," it added.
Ireland's bishops said Tuesday they wished to associate themselves with the "great sense of pain and shame" expressed by investigators in their findings regarding the abuse of young people and the failure of authorities to react.
"In expressing true sorrow and regret, we make our own the heartfelt plea for forgiveness from the victims, and from God, for these terrible crimes and sins," Ireland's Cardinal Sean Brady said in a statement.
He said the report offered "a contribution to the on-going spiritual and moral renewal of the Church in Ireland".
The report offered "great encouragement", the cardinal said, by acknowledging that "in this time of trial" for the Catholic Church in Ireland there are also "many clear signs of hope".
In the report, the Vatican stressed "the sense of dismay and betrayal" over "the sinful and criminal acts that were at the root of this crisis", asked for the victims' forgiveness, saying their well being "is of paramount concern."
The guidelines on how to deal with sex abuse cases will have to be updated to take into account norms published last May, and "should be periodically examined," the investigators said.
While the Vatican has rejected claims that celibacy could be partly responsible for deviant sexual behaviour among its flock, the report included advice on how to better prepare priests for a life of sexual abstinence.
It also warned of a "serious situation" in which many members of the clergy were found to be at odds with the Church on theological matters, though it did not give any details. "Dissent from the fundamental teachings of the church is not the authentic path toward renewal," it said. -AFP