Thursday, December 17, 2009

In Ireland, Resignation #1

Three weeks after his "very poor handling" of sex-abuse allegations was termed "inexcusable" in the devastating report on the archdiocese of Dublin, this morning Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, who served as an auxiliary in the Irish capital from 1981-96.

Said by the state inquiry to have "not deal[t] properly with the suspicions and concerns that were expressed to him" over one priest alleged of abusing over 20 children (and twice convicted on abuse charges), among several other cases, Murray made the following statement on his departure:
“I have heard the views of many survivors, especially in the days following the publication of the Murphy Report. Some expressed the wish that I should resign; others asked me not to do so. I know full well that my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day. I humbly apologise once again to all who were abused as little children. To all survivors of abuse I repeat that my primary concern is to assist in every way that I can, on their journey towards finding closure and serenity.

“A bishop is meant to be a person who seeks to lead and inspire all the people of the diocese in living as a community united in the truth and love of Christ. I asked the Holy Father to allow me to resign and to appoint a new bishop to the Diocese because I believe that my presence will create difficulties for some of the survivors who must have first place in our thoughts and prayers.

“Let my last words as Bishop of Limerick be those I spoke in St. Joseph's on 29th November last: ‘We are people who believe that God’s mercy and God’s healing are without limit. We are meant to be bearers of that hope to one another and especially to people whose trust was betrayed when they were just little children and who endured the terror, helplessness and suffering inflicted by a frightening and dominant adult. They should always have a special place in our prayers’."
Fifteen years since the first small band of survivors shook the once vaunted and feared Irish church by going public with their stories, Murray becomes the second Isle prelate to resign following revelations of his role in a cover-up; Bishop Brendan Comiskey of Ferns left his post in 2002 amid scrutiny of his lax oversight in the case of Sean Fortune, a priest charged with abusing almost 30 boys. (Fortune had committed suicide in 1999 while awaiting trial.)

According to wide reports in the Irish press, since the inquest's release Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has written to other bishops and senior clerics implicated in its findings to call for their resignations. Following last week's Vatican summit on the crisis, the leading Italian vaticanista Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale reported that "at least four, and as many as ten" Irish bishops would walk the plank over the coming weeks.

While Martin garnered some raised eyebrows for his post-audience comment that the Isle church would likely see "a very significant reorganization" in the report's wake, the outpouring of public scorn on the hierarchy continues, with leading survivors terming the Vatican response "self-serving nonsense" or an attempt to "deflect attention away from accountability," and commentators casting a skeptical eye on Pope Benedict's impending outreach to "post-Catholic Ireland."