Pope accepts Moriarty resignation

Thu, Apr 22, 2010, 01:00

Pope Benedict XVI has formally accepted the resignation of Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty.

Following the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick last December, Bishop Moriarty is the second Irish bishop to have his resignation accepted in the wake of the fallout from the Murphy report.

The acceptance of Bishop Moriarty’s resignation comes as no surprise, since he himself had made it known in recent weeks that he expected it to be confirmed by the Holy See.

Bishop Moriarty confirmed that he had spoken about his decision to resign during Pope Benedict’s February meeting with the Irish bishops in the Vatican.

Calling his resignation “the most difficult decision of my ministry”, Bishop Moriarty confessed that he had not originally intended to resign following the publication of the Murphy report.

“However, renewal must begin with accepting the responsibility for the past. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we needed a new beginning, and that I could play my part in opening the way,” he said in a statement today.

"I know that words of apology are not enough. Before speaking on other matters, it is important to be able to report that, learning from the past, the Irish Church now has excellent child safeguarding procedures in place.

"The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian. People do not recognise the gentle, endless love of the Lord in narrow interpretations of responsibility and a basic lack of compassion and humility."

The fate of Dublin auxiliary bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, who offered their resignations last Christmas Eve, also in the wake of the Murphy report, remains unclear.

While some commentators suggest that both these resignations will be accepted within the next month, other observers argue that the Holy See will continue to stall on the issue, since it does not want to be seen to have offered a knee-jerk response to both public opinion and media pressure.

Kildare is not the only Irish diocese that will be looking for a new bishop shortly. Both the 76-year- old Bishop of Clogher, Joe Duffy, and the 75-year-old Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, have already tendered their resignations, having passed the retirement age (75) stipulated by canon law.

Furthermore, speculation remains rife that Cardinal Seán Brady, currently in poor health and also under pressure to resign because of his involvement in a case involving the mismanagement of notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, could yet offer his resignation.

On top of that, the pope last month also accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee of Cloyne.

Among those who may be in line for the vacant positions are Fr Tim Bartlett, an aide to Cardinal Brady, who may be appointed to Clogher, while the current rector of the Irish College in Rome, Msgr Liam Bergin, may replace Bishop Moriarty in Kildare.

Vatican sources also suggest that two priests from the diocese of Cloyne currently in the Vatican, Msgr Joseph Murphy from the secretariat of state and Msgr James O’Brien from the congregation for the divine cult, could be candidates for Cloyne.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict, in his weekly public audience in St Peter’s yesterday, struck a determined note as he referred back to his weekend pastoral visit to Malta, underlining not only that he had met some victims of clerical sex abuse, but also that the Catholic faith in Malta was a “very lively reality”.

Speaking of last Sunday’s open air Mass in Floriana, attended by 40,000 faithful, the pope said: “For me, it was a great moment of joy, even of consolation, to feel the particular warmth of the Maltese people, a warmth which gives one the sense [of being in] a large family, which finds common ground in the faith and the Christian vision of life.

“After the Mass, I met with some victims of clerical sex abuse. I shared their suffering with them and, with a great sense of compassion, I prayed with them, assuring them that the church would act.”

This was the pope’s fourth encounter with victims of clerical sex abuse worldwide, following meetings with US, Australian and Canadian victims in 2008 and last year.