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Irish bishops' resignations: were they warranted? were they coerced?

August 13, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI declined to accept the resignations of two Irish bishops before they were submitted under pressure, and because the two bishops had not been involved in a cover-up of sex-abuse cases in Dublin, according to the latest analyses.

Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field were both mentioned in the Murphy Commission report on mishandling of the sex-abuse scandal in the Dublin archdiocese. But whereas the Murphy Commission specificially denounced the actions of some Dublin bishops, it did not criticize Bishops Walsh and Field, notes David Quinn, writing in the Irish Independent. In a more detailed reading of the report, Quinn notes that Bishop Field became an auxiliary in the Dublin archdiocese at a time when Church leaders were improving their handling to sex-abuse complaints. Although Bishop Walsh had a longer history of involvement, his name was never mentioned by the Murphy Commission.

Sex-abuse victims have angrily protested the Vatican’s decision not to accept the resignations of the two Dublin auxiliary bishops. But Quinn asks whether the facts warranted their removal. He concludes:

The answer is that in the case of Bishop Field it wasn't justified, and in the case of Bishop Walsh it was a 50/50 call.
Quinn concludes that Bishops Walsh and Field only resigned because they felt heavy pressure to do so—not only from any angry Irish public, but more importantly from Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

A separate story in the Irish Independent contains the remarkable report that Archbishop Martin did not inform the other members of the Irish hierarchy about the Pope’s decision not to accept the resignations of Bishops Walsh and Fields. The other Irish bishops only learned of that decision when Archbishop Martin disclosed it this week in a letter to the priests of the Dublin archdiocese.

Tensions between Archbishop Martin and his auxiliaries had been evident to observers in Dublin since last December, when the two offered their resignations. Early this week a respected Vatican journalist, Andrea Tornielli, reported that Bishops Field and Walsh had sent detailed reports to the Vatican on the circumstances surrounding their resignations—in effect arguing that they should not be required to step down.

These accounts suggest that the Vatican agreed with Bishops Walsh and Field, and concluded that their resignations were neither warranted nor freely offered. If that is the case, the Pope’s decision is a rebuke to Archbishop Martin, and the result increases the Dublin archbishop’s isolation from his auxiliaries and from other members of the Irish hierarchy.

Archbishop Martin left Dublin for a vacation after writing to the priests of the archdiocese to announce the Vatican’s decision. A spokesman said that the archbishop would not be taking questions about the matter.


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  • Posted by: - Aug. 14, 2010 7:24 AM ET USA

    At least David Quinn is, as usual, bringing some much needed perspective to the situation. We need to get away from the "scapegoat" mentality and look at the real truth if we want real justice. The resignations of Walsh & Field would achieve absolutely nothing. Unfortunately for Dr Diarmuid Martin, while he has done his best to "clean up" the Archdiocese, he has himself to blame for any isolation he is experiencing- his comments a few months ago questioned the integrity of several Irish bishops.