Bishops Walsh, Field resign in wake of abuse report


Dublin's remaining two auxiliary bishops are to step down in the wake of the Murphy report into the handling of child abuse complaints in the Dublin Archdiocese.

The resignations of Bishop Éamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field were announced late last night, bringing to four the number of bishops who have stepped down over the report.

"It is our hope that our action may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims/survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologise to them," they said in a statement.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio this afternoon, Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin said he respected the bishops' offer of resignation.

Last week, Bishop Walsh said he had done nothing wrong in his handling of clerical child sex abuse cases and his resignation would be an "injustice".

Speaking after a Council of Priests' meeting in Dublin on Friday, Bishop Walsh said he would step down if he became "a block on the gospel".

"People may attribute a wrong to me unjustly and people have been unjustly treated in the past. And if that happens again then I will have to be the person to accept that injustice but it’s not a thing I want to do," he said.

"From my own point of view if I find that my position is such that I’m going to be a block to the gospel then I cannot be a block. So I will have to make sure that I maintain my integrity."

The two were among five bishops named in the Murphy report.

Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty said on Wednesday that he had offered his resignation to Pope Benedict, which put further pressure on other serving bishops also mentioned in the report to do likewise.

The fifth bishop, the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, has so far resisted calls for him to step down. 

Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray resigned earlier this month.

Bishop Walsh, was appointed in April 1990, over a year before Bishop Moriarty was appointed a Dublin auxiliary bishop in September 1991.

Both Bishop Drennan and Bishop Field were appointed auxiliary bishops in Dublin on September 21st, 1997. Bishop Drennan was appointed Bishop of Galway in May 2005.

Dublin north central Labour councillor Aodhan O Riordain welcomed the statement.

'The timing of the announcement is open to question, but the resignations are welcome nonetheless. It is now time for a full and frank debate about the relationship between the church and state institutions in Ireland, especially education. As a principal of a Catholic school, I feel we can hide from that debate no longer," he said.

On Wednesday night, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin issued a statement in response to a letter sent by Bishop Walsh to all priests in his area of the Dublin archdiocese in which he said Archbishop Martin had expressed full confidence in his auxiliary bishops, following publication of the Murphy report.

It is claimed Archbishop Martin did so at a meeting with clergy of the archdiocese at Citywest on December 12th last following the meeting with Pope Benedict he and Cardinal Brady had on Friday, December 11th.

A spokeswoman for the archbishop said he wished “to clarify that when asked at the Citywest gathering of priests if he had confidence in his priests and auxiliary bishops, he replied that he had confidence in the ministry they were carrying out”.

She continued “he clearly noted, however, that with regard to the auxiliary bishops, he is still evaluating their positions regarding the manner in which they addressed the question of accountability for the implications of the Murphy report”.

She continued: “Archbishop Martin does not believe that anyone could interpret his comments as giving unconditional support and he has, indeed, received critical comments for his not offering such support.”