Thursday 24 May 2018

Storm as Pope lets bishops keep jobs

Vatican decision deals major blow to authority of archbishop

John Cooney

POPE Benedict has delivered a severe blow to the authority of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin after he rejected the resignations of two bishops named in the Murphy Report into cover-ups of paedophile clerics.

The Pontiff ’s long-awaited decision in support of Dublin Auxiliary Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field unleashed a storm of furious reaction from victims of clerical abuse in Ireland and the US.

Dr Walsh and Bishop Field tendered their resignations to Rome eight months ago after Dr Martin called for all bishops named in the Murphy Report to take responsibility for their past actions.

Widespread dismay at the Papal decision will intensify protests by abuse groups next month during the Pope’s official state visit to Scotland, England and Wales.

And the Vatican rebuff has dealt a heavy blow to Dr Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat who was appointed in 2004 to lead the Catholic Church in Ireland through a growing storm of child-abuse scandals.

From the start he has clashed with predecessors who oversaw a culture of concealment of child molestation by transferring abusive priests to new parishes in Ireland, Britain and the US.

In a letter sent this week to priests and other Dublin church officials, Dr Martin said: “Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict, it has been decided that Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field will remain as auxiliary bishops.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Ireland confirmed last night that both bishops would remain as auxiliary bishops with new duties.

“This means that they will be available to administer confirmation in any part of the (Dublin) diocese in the coming year,” he added.

The Survivors of Child Abuse organisation said the decision to reject their resignations would do nothing to help victims.

One in Four described it as an “extraordinary move” that only served to raise questions about accountability in the church.

And a US group – Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests – urged the Pope to fire both bishops.

Survivor Andrew Madden, who was abused as a child by paedophile priest Ivan Payne, said the announcement came as no surprise.

“Today’s announcement also shows how utterly meaningless the instruction was that Pope Benedict gave to Irish bishops to identify steps that would bring healing to victims of clerical child sexual abuse,” he said.

The Pope’s decision became known after eight months of Vatican stalling on a decision during which the silence from Rome was an ominous signal of disapproval of Dr Martin’s earlier calls for all bishops named in the Murphy Report to resign.

Of six bishops who came under huge public pressure to resign in the wake of the report, just two have had their resignations accepted by the Pope – Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray and Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty.


The Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan resolutely refused to resign on the grounds he had done no wrong. He also publicly questioned the calls from Dr Martin, effectively urging him to examine his position.

Although Bishops Walsh and Field insisted they had done no wrong to merit removal, they capitulated to public pressure and announced the submission of their resignations at their Christmas Eve Masses.

The indirect manner of Dr Martin’s confirmation of Rome’s decision added to the confusion about his standing in Rome. The news filtered out in a single paragraph tucked away towards the end of a three-page letter sent on Dublin priests on Tuesday.

Attempts by the Irish Independent to contact Bishops Walsh and Field were unsuccessful last night.

A Vatican spokesman refused to confirm the resignations had been rejected or to offer reasons why bishops allegedly involved in covering up abuse would be kept on.

The Rev Federico Lombardi said it was the Vatican's policy not to make public announcements when resignations were rejected. The Vatican only gave news of resignations once they had been accepted, he said.

A government-authorised investigation into Dublin Archdiocese cover-ups published in November named more than a dozen current and former bishops as responsible for failing to tell the gardai about more than 170 suspected paedophiles in the priesthood from the mid- 1970s to mid-1990s.

Dr Martin supported the investigation by releasing thousands of previously secret church documents that demonstrated detailed church knowledge of crimes committed against several hundred Irish children.

It is understood Dr Martin's relations with his two bishops have frayed during the long wait for a verdict from the Vatican. He has not appeared publicly with them since December.

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News