Saturday 19 October 2019

Martin and Walsh at odds as another prelate quits

Conflict erupts over 'support'

John Cooney

ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin challenged his senior auxiliary, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, to consider his position hours after Bishop James Moriarty became the second prelate to resign in the fall-out from the Murphy report.

A behind-the-scenes conflict erupted over Bishop Walsh's future in the Dublin Archdiocese in the wake of yesterday's resignation of Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty.

Last night Bishop Martin disputed a private claim made to Dublin priests by embattled Bishop Walsh that he had "unconditional support" to continue as his senior assistant.

A spokesperson for Archbishop Martin said he did not believe that anyone could interpret the comments of the archbishop as giving "unconditional support".

Pressure on Bishop Walsh to resign intensified when Bishop Moriarty announced he had offered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI and accepted the principle of collective responsibility for his inaction in not persuading Cardinal Desmond Connell to search the files on "Fr Edmondus", who he was investigating.

Bishop Moriarty confessed that, with the benefit of hindsight, he now accepted that when working as a Dublin auxiliary bishop from 1991-2002, he "should have challenged the prevailing culture".

Last week, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray for his "inexcusable" failure to properly investigate paedophile priest Thomas Naughton.

Within hours, the spotlight switched to Bishop Walsh, the senior auxiliary in Dublin, who is among five bishops who have been asked by Archbishop Martin to consider taking collective moral responsibility for their time as auxiliary bishops in Dublin up until 1995, when Cardinal Desmond Connell was engaging in cover-ups of paedophile priests.

But Bishop Walsh has repeatedly said he did no wrong and it would be an injustice for him to step down.

Letter

However, the Irish Independent has obtained a confidential letter written by Bishop Walsh as part of a lobby campaign among Dublin priests for their support for his not resigning as put up to him by Archbishop Martin.

Asking the priests and people of his area for their support and mutual trust, the Tallaght-based bishop claimed that at a meeting of clergy in Citywest on Saturday, December 12, Archbishop Martin "confirmed publicly that he had confidence in his Dublin auxiliary bishops".

"I hope that the above information will help you to reach your own conclusion in relation to my role and posts held in the diocese," wrote Bishop Walsh in a lengthy letter, signed 'Eamonn' and dated December 17, which he sent to priests resident in Co Wicklow, stretching up to south Dublin suburban parishes.

Last night a spokesperson for Archbishop Martin said that he had not seen the letter.

However, he said Archbishop Martin "clearly noted that with regard to the auxiliary bishops, (Walsh and Ray Field), he is still evaluating their positions regarding the manner in which they addressed the question of accountability for the implications of the Murphy report". The spokesperson added: "It had been Archbishop Martin's intention not to make any comments until he had his final proposals to the follow-up to the Murphy report, which he expects to have in early January.

"He is generally not prepared to discuss details of discussions of private meetings with priests."

In his letter sent to clergy, Bishop Walsh strongly denied suggestions that he should step down because of "guilt by association".

This "guilt by association" argument is linked to Archbishop Martin's call for existing or former Dublin auxiliary bishops named in the cover-ups of paedophile priests when they worked under the direction of Cardinal Connell.

Bishop Walsh was secretary to two archbishops of Dublin before his promotion as auxiliary bishop in 1990.

The Murphy report found that Bishop Walsh, who was delegated to investigate a "Fr Dante" -- a pseudonym -- concluded that the paedophile cleric's behaviour towards children was "inappropriate behaviour rather than child sexual abuse."

The Murphy report said that the priest made boys sleep naked, shower with a door open and smacked them on the bare bottom. Bishop Walsh last night did not return two phone calls made to his residence.

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