By Colum Kenny February 29, 2012
DUBLIN — Viewed from Ireland, Cardinal Francis George’s decision not to dine with the prime minister of Ireland at the Chicago Irish Fellowship Club St. Patrick’s Day dinner this year certainly looks like a snub. His absence will not impress Catholics in Ireland.
But George says that he was not told last week that Prime Minister Enda Kenny would be attending. When he turned down the invitation, his office says, it was simply because of a prior commitment to attend a youth retreat.
My suggestion would be that he think again. In reporting the news last week, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed raised the possibility that George’s decision not to meet with Kenny might be part of an Ireland-Vatican tiff. The cardinal’s office denies this, however, saying the cardinal once even declined an invitation from the pope so as to keep a date with 300 parish leaders in Chicago.
Catholic bishops and the pope’s representative in Ireland have consistently mishandled child sex-abuse scandals. The Irish government’s recent decision to close its Vatican embassy (among others) as a “cost-cutting exercise” has been seen in Ireland as an expression of official frustration.
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