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Bishops to quit as Vatican ups the pressure

A NUMBER of bishops named in the Murphy report are likely to offer to resign after toplevel talks yesterday between the Pope and the country’s two most senior churchmen.

The pressure on them to quit grew after the Vatican issued a statement saying it would look into “questions concerning the governance of local church leaders” who were responsible for the welfare of children.

Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin also revealed that the Catholic Church here is to undergo a massive shake-up at the top level in the wake of the damning Dublin diocesan report into the coverup of clerical sex abuse.

The two leaders of the Irish Church held 90 minutes of talks with Pope Benedict XVI and afterwards vowed they would implement the pontiff’s order to look at the whole management structure of bishops and priests.

The sweeping review will examine internal management structures, with the aim of reducing the number of Irish dioceses from 26 to a more efficient level in line with Ireland’s small population.

It will also give priority to “management training” for bishops and prospective bishops. But no mention was made of the critical issue of how priests are selected to become bishops. Church sources said after the talks that a number of bishops who worked in Dublin during the period covered by the report are now likely to offer to resign.

In its statement, the Vatican said it took issues raised in the Murphy report “very seriously” and would look into “questions concerning the governance of local Church leaders with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children”.

The Vatican said the Pope was “deeply disturbed and distressed” by the damning findings of the report which revealed how sexual abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese was covered-up by the Church.


The statement said the Pope would make the rare move of writing a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics on the issue of sex abuse and restoring confidence in the Church – the first time that a Pope will devote a document solely to the clergy's abuse of children.

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It came as pressure continued to mount on Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray to resign after the commission found his mishandling of abuse complaints while he was an auxiliary bishop in Dublin had been inexcusable.

Last night, abuse victims dismissed the Vatican’s statement as “meaningless”, and said they were tired of waiting for the “appropriate” response from the Catholic Church and for a resignation from Bishop Murray, who is in Rome this week.

Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin conceded there was no discussion of the failings of bishops and Dublin auxiliary bishops who were implicated in the Murphy report of helping to cover up serious abuses.

But Archbishop Martin promised that the actions of every bishop continued to be closely scrutinised – and he hinted at future resignations.


The Archbishop also revealed that earlier this week retired Bishop Dermot O’Mahony, named in 13 mishandled abuse cases in the Murphy report, was asked not to carry out any confirmation ceremonies next year.

Dr Martin also said it would take more than resignations to restore the Catholic Church. “It isn't just the question of heads rolling,” he insisted. “I have said very clearly people assume their own responsibility . . . and it's good to see that that has begun with people doing it actually in public.

That's quite a new thing in the Church in Ireland.” Yesterday a statement from the Vatican confirmed that the Pope was to prepare a “significant document” in the New Year for the Irish Catholic Church.

Speaking after the meeting, the cardinal and archbishop said the Pope was ashamed of the abuse perpetrated within the Church over which he presides. It later emerged that the Pope read the entire 720-page report into the abuses.

The pastoral letter will outline “initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation”. Archbishop Martin said the pastoral letter is a rare and significant gesture from the Holy See and is just the beginning of a larger and longer programme of reorganisation for the Church.

“I think we’re looking at a very significant reorganisation of the whole Church in Ireland. The idea of less dioceses, all these things are open. In its statement, the Vatican said the Pope again expressed his regret for the actions of some members of clergy who abused the trust placed in them.

“The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church,” the statement read.

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