Insisting bishops resign perpetuates injustice - O'Loan

Fri, Aug 13, 2010, 01:00

BARONESS NUALA O’Loan, former Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, has warned against perpetrating further injustice by insisting on the resignations of Dublin auxiliary bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, and the former Dublin auxiliary bishop and current Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan.

“What happened in terms of clerical sexual abuse and the handling of it across the world has been inexcusable, insofar as any individual did not deal appropriately with any allegation of abuse,” she said in response to a query from The Irish Timeslast night.

“Many of the processes of the church, particularly in the application of canon law, were totally inadequate and not consistent with principles of justice. The consequence for the victims was terrible. However, it is profoundly important that we do not allow further injustice to be added to that which has already occurred.

“Where men or women have been shown to have responded wrongly, action should be taken, but each case must be dealt with on its merits. In terms of Bishops Drennan, Field and Walsh, I do not believe that resignation was necessary.”

Having looked again yesterday at the references to each bishop in the Murphy report, she concluded that, “taking all this into account, I think that it is vital to the future of the church that we do not perpetrate further injustice. This would be wrong.

“What is far more important to my mind is that the church should review its canonical procedures to ensure that what happened can never happen again and that archbishops and bishops, who are autonomous in their dioceses, should become accountable.”

She continued: “I do not believe that what the pope has done is indicative of double standards, rather I think it is indicative that there has been an analysis of what actually happened and what Murphy actually said.

“It is profoundly sad that we are in this position, but we will not improve the church by seeking to remove men against whom nothing is proved – we have so much to do and we must above all act justly.”

One in Four founder Colm O’Gorman said last night that the pope’s decision not to accept the resignations offered by Bishops Walsh and Field was “beyond the point of any rationale”.

If the pope “was prepared to accept the resignation of Bishop Jim Moriarty for not challenging the prevailing culture” in the Dublin archdiocese over the period covered by the Murphy report, “why was he not prepared to accept that of Bishop Eamonn Walsh?”

He noted that Bishop Walsh had himself in the past said he had recommended that allegations of abuse be reported to the gardaí, “but he had not insisted on that”.

He did not challenge the prevailing culture and, “as a barrister and canon lawyer, he has been to the forefront of this issue [in Ireland] for the past 15 years.”

Mr O’Gorman insisted he had “no desire to personalise the issue. I have no difficulty accepting that Eamonn Walsh is a good man”, but “what happened in Dublin was so catastrophic for so many lives.”

The church had failed to hold anyone to account in any meaningful way, he added. What had happened was also “damaging” to the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, “who has been very courageous” in addressing the abuse issue.

“The key now is how parents in Dublin react at confirmation ceremonies next year which are conducted by Bishops Walsh and Field,” he said.

A protest against the pope’s refusal to accept the resignations of both bishops is planned to take place tomorrow outside the Papal Nunciature on Navan Road, Dublin, at 3pm.