Resignation offers were 'for benefit of abuse victims'
THE two auxiliary bishops at the centre of the latest resignation controversy offered to step down last Christmas in the hope their action would help bring peace and reconciliation to abuse victims.
Bishops Eamon Walsh and Raymond Field had served as bishops during the period investigated by the Murphy probe into clerical child abuse in the Dublin diocese.
Neither auxiliary bishop was singled out for criticism by the Murphy Report.
However, they came under intense pressure to resign amid criticism they were collectively responsible for permitting clerical sexual abuse to continue in Dublin.
In a letter sent to clergy in December as part of a campaign of support from local priests, Bishop Walsh strongly denied suggestions that he should step down because of "guilt by association".
But amid mounting pressure, he and Bishop Field finally announced their decision to offer their resignations in a joint-statement issued on Christmas Eve.
Both bishops said they had told Archbishop Diarmuid Martin they were offering their resignations to the Pope as auxiliary bishops.
"As we celebrate the Feast of Christmas, the Birth of our Saviour, the Prince of Peace, it is our hope that our action may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims/survivors of child sexual abuse. Again we apologise to them," their statement said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have so bravely spoken out and those who continue to suffer in silence."
Archbishop Martin subsequently called the two prelates "extremely good bishops", but said good people had to be accountable. However, he also said there was a future place for them in the Irish church.
Dr Walsh has been a bishop for more than 19 years and ran the Ferns diocese for four years after Bishop Brendan Comiskey resigned over the abuse controversy in his diocese.
Bishop Field served for 12 years in Dublin and is chairman of the Bishops' Irish Council for Justice and Peace.