Why didn't the Pope accept the resignations of Auxiliary Bishops Walsh and Field? The answer is that in the case of Bishop Field it wasn't justified, and in the case of Bishop Walsh it was a 50/50 call.
It is true that these two men were named in the Murphy Report, but this fact alone does not justify calls for their resignations. Being named is not the same thing as being denounced and neither man is denounced in the report, whereas other auxiliary bishops from the period under investigation -- 1975 to 2004 -- are, namely Bishops O'Mahony, Kavanagh and Murray.
Let's take a slightly closer look at the case of Bishop Raymond Field. The report doesn't criticise him in any significant way and therefore he is not remotely in the same category as say, Kavanagh or O'Mahony, who very much belong to the era of cover-up.
The fall-back position of his accusers, namely that he should resign for not properly challenging the culture of cover-up, is also wide of the mark because by the time he assumed a senior role in the Dublin diocesan structure in 1997 the diocese was getting its child protection house in order.
This is borne out by the Murphy Report itself. It examined a sample of 46 abuse cases and concluded that about half were adequately dealt with by the diocese. Basically, this covered those cases brought to the attention of the archdiocese from around 1996 or 1997 on.
What about Bishop Eamonn Walsh? He is not criticised in the report, let alone denounced. So that's one strike in his favour. However, he was made an auxiliary bishop back in 1990 and had previously served as secretary to Archbishop Kevin McNamara followed by Archbishop Desmond Connell. So he was emphatically part of the diocesan structure that failed abused children. That is a big strike against him.
Another auxiliary bishop from that time, Jim Moriarty, later the bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, offered his resignation because, in his own opinion, he did not properly challenge the system. If it was right for him to go, then logically it should have been right for Bishop Walsh to go as well. (Mind you, by this standard, how many HSE personnel should go given the increasingly glaring child protection failings of that organisation?)
The Pope accepted Bishop Moriarty's resignation but he didn't accept Bishop Walsh's. Why not? One reason is because Bishop Moriarty was more inclined to go and probably pushed for his resignation to be accepted. Bishop Walsh did not want to go.
A second reason is because when he was acting bishop in the Ferns diocese during the time of the Ferns Inquiry, Walsh was widely praised for putting that diocese's house in order.
In fact, when the Ferns Report was issued, abuse victim Colm O'Gorman praised Walsh in fulsome manner on 'Prime Time'. He told him: "I think it's important to reflect upon the fact that the changes you put in place in Ferns are very significant. You have moved in ways in Ferns that your fellow bishops have not moved in many other dioceses in Ireland and internationally to ensure that children in that diocese are protected, in ways that up until you came into the post we were told it was impossible for bishops to act, and that needs to be acknowledged, and you need to be credited with that ... I accept your bona fides, I accept your absolute integrity in determining that this won't happen again."
O'Gorman supported the resignation of Bishop Walsh. Nonetheless, what Walsh did in Ferns stands to his credit and goes some way towards cancelling out his failure to properly challenge a failed system in Dublin.
This brings us to the question of why Bishop Field and Bishop Walsh offered their resignations in the first place. The answer is almost certainly that they believed they had been placed under undue pressure to do so, including by their own archbishop.
Bishop Walsh must be especially sore because Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had him at his side at the press conference he organised on the day of the Murphy Report's release. He must wonder why his boss effectively turned on him only a few days later.
The bottom line is that hysteria, rather than a fair reading of the facts, has dictated the reaction to Bishops Walsh and Field. Bishop Walsh's position admittedly is a judgement call, but by no stretch of the imagination should Bishop Field have to resign.
PS: In last week's column I wrote about the meaning of republicanism. David Adams writing in yesterday's 'Irish Times' seemed to think I was arguing for the special place of the Catholic Church in Irish affairs. I wasn't.
I simply think that the churches and those who belong to them should have a place, not a special one, just like anyone else, and that they should not be denied the same right to influence public debate that is granted to a trade union, a business organisation, or indeed to the media.