Ireland is squeezing the Roman Catholic Church to hand over cash and real estate toward a 1.4 billion-euro ($2 billion) child-abuse bill amid the bitterest stand-off yet seen between the Vatican and the government.

In the sharpest language an Irish leader has ever used against the church, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said last month the Vatican’s handling of the scandals has been dominated by “elitism and narcissism.”

“The relationship between the state and the Vatican has never been worse,” David Quinn, a religious commentator who is also director of the Dublin-based Iona Institute, which promotes religion in society, said in an interview. “I struggle to think of a stronger attack by a Western European leader on the church than Enda Kenny’s.”

Kenny said the church needs to be “truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied” after three government reports on clerical abuse and cover-ups rocked one of Europe’s most devout societies. With the focus now moving to who compensates the victims in talks starting next month, the church’s riches and dominance of Ireland’s educational system face their most direct threat in the country’s modern history.

Continue Reading on