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Irish bishop resigns under criticism for abuse cover-up

December 17, 2009

Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, Ireland, has resigned under pressure after an inquiry into the handling of sexual abuse in Dublin reported that Bishop Murray had “inexcusably” failed to take action on complaints while he served as an auxiliary bishop there.

Bishop Murray announced his resignation at the Limerick cathedral on December 17, just as the Vatican released an official statement. The Vatican announcement, as usual, provided no explanation for the move, saying only that the Pope had accepted the resignation in accordance with #401-2 of the Code of Canon Law—which allows for early retirement in cases of illnesses “or other grave reason.”

Bishop Murray told the faithful in Limerick:

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.

In an earlier response to the criticism he encountered after the release of the “Murphy Commission” report, Bishop Murray had said on November 29 that he was weighing the possibility of resignation, saying that it “is a question of whether my presence here is a help or a hindrance to the Diocese of Limerick.” In his December 17 statement he observed: “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.” Having concluded that he could no longer fulfill that role, he asked Pope Benedict to accept his resignation, he said.

The Irish bishops’ conference disclosed that Bishop Murray had indicated his desire to step down even before traveling to Rome early this month to confer with Vatican officials. He met with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re to present his letter of resignation, and at a second meeting with Cardinal Re he was informed that the Pope would accept it.

Bishop Murray is only the second prelate to step down in this decade due to outrage rising from attempts to cover up the sexual-abuse scandal. (A number of bishops have resigned because of scandals involving their own personal misconduct.) In the US, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in December 2002 after months of mounting criticism caused by revelations about sexual abuse by priests in that archdiocese. Other American prelates have remained in office despite similar revelations.

In Ireland, Bishop Murray may not be the only one to resign. The Murphy Commission sharply criticized several bishops for covering up evidence of sexual abuse in Dublin, including the retired Cardinal Desmond Connell. A few of those bishops remain active today. Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has encouraged them to assess their situation carefully, hinting that resignations might be called for. Reporters in Dublin indicated the Bishop Jim Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin may be the next Irish bishop to step down.


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  • Posted by: Gil125 - Dec. 17, 2009 3:12 PM ET USA

    Paradoxically enough, hurrah for him. At least he's man enough to do the right thing. Would that we had a couple of hundred more like him. Now we can only hope that the Vatican doesn't reward him as it did Cardinal Law.