independent

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Bishop Brennan pays tribute as Walsh resigns

MURPHY REPORT FORMER APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR STEPS DOWN

Conor CULLEN

BISHOP Denis Brennan has paid tribute to Bishop Eamonn Walsh's 'pioneering work' in the Diocese of Ferns following his decision to resign on Christmas Eve.

Bishop Walsh, former Apostolic Administrator for Ferns, has stepped down in the wake of the Murphy report into the handling of child abuse complaints in the Dublin Archdiocese.

'The diocese respects the decision of Bishop Eamonn Walsh to tender his resignation as auxiliary Bishop of Dublin,' said Bishop Brennan.

'His pioneering work in the Diocese of Ferns in furthering both a genuine response to persons who have been hurt and of overseeing the implementation of a practical model for safeguarding children are remembered at this time. The diocese will always be indebted to him for this work and continues daily to build on his legacy,' said Bishop Brennan.

'Healing the past and ensuring a future that safeguards children remains a priority. The Murphy report has been the occasion for reliving the pain and harm that was brought to light in our own diocese and for remembering all who suffered at the hands of some of our priests.'

Bishop Brennan again apologised 'without reservation' to all who have suffered abuse in the Diocese of Ferns, and to their families.

'I hope that this most recent report may provide victims with a further sense that their story is believed and that this may help them come to terms with the painful memories of their abuse,' said Bishop Brennan. The resignations of Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field were announced late on Christmas Eve, bringing to four the number of bishops who have stepped down following the findings published in the Murphy report.

'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. We again apologise to them,' they said in a statement.

Bishop Walsh had been an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese since 1990. He took over as administrator of the Ferns diocese in 2002, with the Ferns report published in October 2005. Bishop Brennan was then appointed Bishop of Ferns in March 2006.

As Apostolic Administrator in Ferns, Bishop Walsh was in charge of handing over the files to the non-statutory inquiry into child abuse established by the Government and chaired by retired Judge Frank Murphy.

The Ferns report praises Bishop Walsh for his co-operation, however Colm O'Gorman, a victim of Fr Seán Fortune and former director of One in Four, has recently questioned the level of co-operation he gave the Ferns inquiry.

The report exonerated him for the late handing over of internal diocesan files containing concerns and allegations against eight new priests, saying this was a 'result of genuine errors of judgment'.

However, it took a more serious view in relation to another, separate incidence of documentation withheld from the Ferns inquiry until the last moment.

It concerned a priest (known in the report as Fr Iota) still in ministry, a potential continuing danger to children.

The relevant file, which showed that the diocese had known Fr Iota was a child abuser as far back as 1970, was handed over to the inquiry by Bishop Walsh only after the victim (known as Pamela in the report) had come forward in the summer of 2005, when she contacted One in Four.

The Ferns report states that it 'was concerned that the details of this case were not communicated to the inquiry until its work had reached an advanced stage'.

It added that the file's contents 'should have alerted the diocese to the existence of a potential child protection issue'.

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