Bishop Dermot O’Mahony was ‘a man of great integrity’

Bishop criticised in child abuse report had ‘steely courage’, mourners told

Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Dermot O’Mahony had been scapegoated after the 2009 Murphy commission report into clerical child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, his funeral Mass was told yesterday by a leading bishop.

In its report, the commission found that the handling of complaints during his time as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin from 1975 to 1996 was “particularly bad”, saying he had been aware of 13 complaints.

Defending his memory, shortly before his remains were given a final blessing, auxiliary bishop of Dublin Eamonn Walsh described him as "a man of great integrity, scapegoated in a society that at the time ignored the principle of equity, audi alteram partem, to hear the other side".

Speaking to the congregation in Shankill parish church, including the papal nuncio, Bishop Walsh said: "He stood silently before his hearers knowing that to speak would cause greater pain to those who suffered."

He continued: “But integrity is something with steely courage and love that we all associate with Dermot O’Mahony. And goodness cannot be destroyed,” he went on.

Earlier, in the homily, Mass celebrant Fr Tim Murphy compared the suffering of the deceased bishop in his latter years to that of "Bernadette of Lourdes, Thérèse of Lisieux, the Curé of Ars, Francis." It was "the reality of the man we loved", he said.

Speaking before the Mass, Bishop O’Mahony’s brother Gerry said his brother’s final years had been “ones of great trauma”, adding that he had written to the Dublin archdiocese shortly after the commission reported.

In the letter, sent in December 2009, Bishop O’Mahony had expressed “profound regret that any action or inaction of mine should have contributed to the suffering of even a single child”.

However, Mr O’Mahony continued, “that statement was never made public, lending to a media perception that Dermot did not express any remorse or apology. It was something that haunted him to the very end of his life.”

Mr O’Mahony said he was “very grateful to Archbishop [of Dublin] Martin last night for his very kind words and great appreciation for the work that Dermot had carried out over the years.”

He referred to a letter from Bishop O’Mahony to the archbishop in which he had said: “Notwithstanding what has now happened I want to end by assuring you of my support in whatever limited way I can give and I pray that God will help you abundantly in your daunting and limited ministry.”

In his homily, Fr Murphy, recently retired as parish priest at Blessington, Co Wicklow, said he wished "to address some elephants in the room without offending anyone".

The 2009 Murphy report was “personally devastating” for Bishop O’Mahony, he said.

“To say he was involved in a cover-up is almost laughable. He had a complete sense of what was important and what was not important in relation to life and in relation to church life,” said Fr Murphy.

“His sense of mission, justice, was to bring healing and salvation to the victim of the crime but also to the one responsible for the crime. And this is what got him into hot water.”

Fr Murphy continued: “The personification of love and goodness and care was in the personality of this man and to be accused of no care for the most innocent and vulnerable of all was the deepest cut.”

He recalled how after the Murphy report was published Bishop O’Mahony was told “he would not be welcome in his local parish church and the hurt that was involved in being there at home on Christmas Eve when he used to be there in that parish church every Christmas Eve”.

He spoke of the deep physical distress Bishop O’Mahony experienced in the days before he died last Friday, and asked: “How much of that physical pain was caused by the deeper psychological pain that within his heart he felt he had been wronged, he had been treated unjustly, he had been scapegoated? That is what this man felt in his heart of hearts.”

He continued: “And how much of the bad health, all the suffering and trauma of these past years has been caused by this psychological pain within him?”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times