Bishops consider Murphy report fallout in Maynooth


Eighteen Irish Catholic bishops attended an extraordinary general meeting at Maynooth this afternoon to discuss the Dublin Archdiocese report.

It came before a meeting next month between Pope Benedict and the Irish bishops in the wake of the Murphy report and also the forthcoming pastoral letter from the pope to the faithful of Ireland.

Among those attending were Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan and Bishop of Kildare Leighlin Jim Moriarty.

There were 33 bishops and auxiliary bishops eligible to attend.

Bishop Moriarty offered his resignation to the pope on December 23rd last. Bishops Walsh and Field offered theirs on Christmas Eve. It has yet to be confirmed by the Vatican that the resignations have been accepted.

Former bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, whose resignation was accepted on December 17th, did not attend the meeting.

In a statement following the meeting, the bishops said they have been listening to the “widespread and justifiable anger and frustration from survivors, priests and laity across their dioceses” since the publication of the report.

They said they accept that in the critical area of safeguarding children, the public wants accountability and transparency in terms of policy and procedures.

They said they have asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church “to explore with statutory authorities, North and South, ways of ensuring that the Church’s policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that all allegations of abuse are being

handled properly. These discussions are ongoing.”

The bishops also welcomed the invitation from Pope Benedict I for talks in the Vatican next month. “Benedict’s request was made in the context of the very serious situation that prevails in the Irish Church,” they said.

There was a small protest outside the meeting venue this morning. One of the protestors, Brendan Butler, said: “Until Bishop Drennan resigns the future of the Roman Catholic Church will be overshadowed. We are hoping the bishops’ conference will put pressure on [Bishop] Drennan.”

Also protesting was Sean Kane who said his wife had been sexually abused by a member of the clergy. Mr Kane said he had driven from Carlow this morning to support survivors of abuse. “The bishops need to step down and Rome needs to be more accountable”.

Earlier today a Catholic lay organisation called for the immediate resignation of all Irish bishops implicated in the covering up of clerical child sexual abuse as found by the Murphy report.

In a statement, Voice of the Faithful Ireland (VOTFI) said the moral authority of the papacy in Ireland, and of Catholic bishops, is likely to collapse "if the promised papal pastoral letter to Ireland does not squarely address the issue of the widespread cover up by bishops of the outrage of clerical child sexual abuse".

"Especially damaging was the admission by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference on December 9th, 2009 that the Murphy report indicated a widespread culture of covering up of clerical child sexual abuse in the church.

"This should have been followed by the immediate resignation of all Irish bishops who had participated in or acceded to this cover up," the group said.

VOTFI said it was alarmed at reports the papal pastoral letter may go no further "than to repeat empty condemnations of clerical sex abuse".

"Despite the strong leadership shown by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, the prestige and authority of Catholic bishops in Ireland, and of the papacy, continue to decline in the wake of the Murphy report of November 26th, 2009," the group said.

The group urged the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, among other steps, to request the papacy undertake an inquiry into all aspects of the clerical child sexual abuse scandal, ensure a thorough investigation of all remaining Irish dioceses is done, and request the immediate resignations of all Irish bishops implicated in the cover up.

Today’s meeting was the fourth egm of the Irish Bishops’ Conference since the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey in March 2002.