15 Nov 2010

Limerick Bishop finally resigns for "inexcusable" neglect and failure to protect children from clergy predators

BBC News - December 17, 2009

Irish bishop Donal Murray resigns over abuse report

An Irish bishop has resigned, weeks after his handling of child sex abuse allegations was severely criticised.

A report on abuse by priests in the Dublin Archdiocese found Donal Murray's handling of one case while an auxiliary bishop in the 1980s was "inexcusable".

The Vatican said the Pope had accepted his resignation as bishop of Limerick.

Dr Murray said: "I know full well my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day."

The Murphy report into abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 was highly critical of the Catholic church hierarchy's handling of priests suspected of being child abusers.
The report said many bishops were more concerned with preserving the reputation of the church rather than protecting children.

It found that during Dr Murray's time as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1982 to 1996, he was dismissive of complaints about a priest who went on to abuse again.

Dr Murray said on Thursday he had taken time to study the report in full before deciding to resign.

"I humbly apologise once again to all who were abused as little children," he said.

"To all survivors of abuse, I repeat that my primary concern is to assist in every way that I can on their journey towards finding closure and serenity.

"I asked the Holy Father to allow me to resign and to appoint a new bishop to the diocese because I believe that my presence will create difficulties for some of the survivors who must have first place in our thoughts and prayers."

Dr Murray held talks about his future with the Pope in the Vatican last week.

He said Pope Benedict had accepted his resignation on Monday but agreed that Dr Murray should return to Limerick to allow him to be in his diocese when the announcement was made.


The Murphy report said Bishop Murray did not deal properly with the suspicions and concerns that were expressed to him in relation to one priest, Fr Tom Naughton in 1983.

A short time later, factual evidence of Naughton's abusing emerged in another parish.

The Murphy report found Bishop Murray's failure to reinvestigate the earlier suspicions was "inexcusable".

In May 1998, Naughton pleaded guilty to six counts of indecently assaulting three boys in 1985 and 1986. He was jailed for three years, reduced on appeal to two-and-a-half years.

On Wednesday, Naughton was jailed again - this time for three years for sexually abusing an altar boy between 1982 and 1984.

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BBC News - December 17, 2009

Bishop Donal Murray resignation: Q&A

Irish priest Dr Donal Murray has resigned as Bishop of Limerick.

BBC News Online examines how he came under increasing pressure in recent weeks for the way he dealt with a paedophile priest during his time as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin.


Donal Murray was born in Dublin in 1940. He was ordained in 1966, having gained a doctorate in theology.

After an academic career which included lecturing in University College Dublin on Catechetics and medical ethics, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1982.

At that time, he was the youngest member of the Irish Catholic hierarchy.

He was installed as Bishop of Limerick in March 1996.


A damning report into child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 criticised the Catholic Church hierarchy there for a cover up.

The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, known as the Murphy report, laid bare a culture of concealment where church leaders prioritised the protection of their own institution above that of vulnerable children in their care.

It found that during Dr Murray's time as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1982 to 1996, he handled a number of complaints badly.

The report described his failure to investigate one allegation as "inexcusable".

For example, he did not deal properly with the suspicions and concerns that were expressed to him in relation to one priest, Fr Tom Naughton.

When, a short time later, factual evidence of Naughton's abusing emerged in another parish, it found Dr Murray's failure to reinvestigate the earlier suspicions was "inexcusable".

Parents who complained to Dr Murray about Naughton said he dismissed their concerns.

In May 1998, Naughton pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault on three boys. He was jailed for three years, reduced on appeal by six months.

On Wednesday, Naughton, now aged 78, was jailed for three years for abusing an altar boy between 1982 and 1984 in the parish of Valleymount in County Wicklow.

The judge said the "premeditated" abuse was "shocking and horrific". He said Naughton had taken advantage of his position of trust.


Mervyn Rundle, who was abused by Naughton, has called for a criminal investigation into Dr Murray's response to the abuse allegations at the time.

"When are the guards (Irish police) going to act against these guys?" he told the Irish Times.

Retired Garda sergeant John Brennan, who sought to have Naughton removed from Valleymount in 1984 following complaints by parents, told the paper: "It was (Naughton's) superiors who, aware of this weakness, sent him around to other places, and I think they shouldn't be allowed at this stage to resign or retire.

"They should be the subject of a criminal investigation. If there is neglect and evidence of a cover-up, it shouldn't be a question of somebody resigning. They should be the subject of a criminal charge."


A former doctoral student of Pope Benedict, Father Vincent Twomey, said it was a "scandal" that bishops criticised in the Murphy report had not resigned sooner.

Speaking on Sunday, the theologian, who is still close to the Pope, said delays in resignations were causing damage to the church.

Catholic Primate of all-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady had stopped short of saying that Dr Murray should resign.

"Bishop Donal Murray has been in contact with me, as you know he is considering his position and hopes to be in a position to comment soon and I'm confident Bishop Donal will do the right thing," he said.

Current Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, told RTE: "If I am unhappy with answers... I don't want to be sitting at meetings with people who have not responded to a very serious situation.

"Everyone should stand up and take responsibility for what they did."

He has said that both Cardinal Brady and he were strongly convinced that the Irish Catholic hierarchy needs to re-establish strong leadership.

Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey said he believed Dr Murray had "serious questions to answer", adding that he believed he would resign if faced with a similar challenge to his "ability to deal with these matters with credibility and integrity".

However, Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe argued that calls for Dr Murray to resign were based on a misreading of the Murphy report and that a "public trial" was taking place, motivated by the desire by some to get "a head on a plate".


Dr Murray said he was "acutely aware of the pain and anguish" experienced since the report was published and had begun engaging with the people and priests of his diocese about whether his ministry was a "hindrance or help".

In a letter read out during Masses on the weekend of 28/29 November, he said: "As I look back on that time, I ask myself many questions, especially about the three cases in which the report criticises me.

"At no time did I, as an auxiliary bishop of Dublin, receive an allegation of sexual abuse and fail to act.

"When an allegation of sexual abuse of children by a priest was brought to my attention, I responded promptly and conscientiously and in each case notified the Archbishop and Diocesan authorities and co-operated fully with them.

"I never deliberately or knowingly sought to cover up or withhold information brought to my attention.

"There were, as the report notes, occasions when roles/responsibilities were not clear or where I did not have full information concerning cases in which I was asked to become involved."


In March, Bishop John Magee, the Newry, County Down-born Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, "stepped aside".

Dr Magee faced many calls for resignation for failing to properly address allegations of clerical sex abuse within his County Cork diocese.

Technically, it was not a resignation, although in previous high-profile episcopal departures, there has been no doubt that a resignation was offered to the Pope.

Eamonn Casey resigned as Bishop of Galway in 1992 after an affair with an American divorcee, and Brendan Comiskey, then Bishop of Ferns, presented his resignation to the Vatican in 2002 following claims that he had mishandled allegations of child abuse by Fr Sean Fortune.

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Irish Times - December 18, 2009

Bishop was casualty of some of his own 'abuse' warnings

CARL O'BRIEN Chief Reporter

BACKGROUND: Bishop Murray, a committed reformer in Limerick, was undone by Dublin omissions

ALMOST FIVE years ago Bishop Donal Murray warned a gathering of clergy that dealing discreetly with allegations of sexual abuse “can lead to failure to take the necessary steps”.

“We must not, like the priest and Levite in the Good Samaritan, pass by on the other side, failing to see somebody’s suffering because we are too wrapped up in our business to notice,” he said.

Yesterday Bishop Murray himself became a casualty of this failure to act when he resigned following stinging criticism in the Murphy report of his handling of child sexual abuse concerns.

It marks the end of a career of a man who at one point was the youngest bishop in Ireland and, later, was favourite to become archbishop of Dublin.

Born in Dublin 1940, he was the son of the chairman of the ESB, Dr Thomas Murray, and received his early education at St Therese’s national school at Mount Merrion, and Blackrock College.

He studied for the priesthood at Clonliffe College, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and the Angelicum University in Rome, where he was awarded a doctorate of divinity.

On his return he was ordained a priest in 1966, at the age of 25, going on to develop a deep interest in theology. He became a theological adviser for the post-primary programme of religious teaching and lectured on moral theology and ethics at UCD.

He also lectured on ethics to medical, social science and nursing students at the same university.

He was still in his mid-30s when he became adviser to the Irish representatives to the Synod of Bishops and became a respected author of several books on subjects such as the sacraments, ethics and atheism.

After being appointed auxiliary bishop of Dublin in 1982, with the title “Bishop of Glendalough”, he continued to impress as a prolific author and developed a keen interest in the relationship between faith and culture.

By the late 1980s, after archbishop Kevin McNamara’s death, he seemed almost certain to fill the vacancy.

But the move was reportedly blocked after conservative elements informed Rome that the auxiliary bishop accepted “unorthodox practices” in his part of the archdiocese. (This was a reference to his allowing altar girls in Bray – still uncommon then – and the conduct of absolution services there.)

It was at around this time that he became aware of a series of child sexual abuse concerns, but failed to act quickly or decisively on the majority of them.

He left Dublin when he was installed as bishop of Limerick in February 1996. In the process, he became the first person from outside the diocese to be appointed bishop in more than two centuries.

He proved a popular and hard-working figure. He sold the bishop’s palace and moved into a modest house just outside the city. He went on to establish procedures for safeguarding children and was on the Bishops’ Liaison Committee for Child Protection.

His willingness to defend the church’s positions in public is said to have endeared him to the Vatican, if at times he was criticised for being too brusque and defensive.

Ultimately, he couldn’t defend his own position.

When the Murphy report was issued last month, the criticism was damning. His handling of one complaint was “inexcusable” while he also “handled a number of complaints and suspicions badly”.


The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse found that Bishop Murray’s dealings with one abuse allegation while auxiliary bishop in Dublin was “inexcusable”.

Bishop Murray served in the role of auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese from 1982 to 1996.

The commission was critical of Bishop Murray’s handling of complaints about Fr Tom Naughton, a serial child sexual abuser who served in several parishes.

The report says that in 1983, two parishioners from Valleymount parish expressed concerns to Bishop Murray about Fr Naughton’s behaviour, claiming he was “too close to the altar boys”.

Bishop Murray organised for the complaints to be investigated by a priest. However, the commission said: “The type of investigation carried out is not chronicled in the files and would appear to have been totally inadequate even by the standards of the time.”

The commission said no attempt was made by Bishop Murray to revisit these stated concerns even after he became aware of Naughton’s abusive behaviour in other parishes such as Donnycarney and Ringsend.

The report said, “Bishop Murray’s failure to investigate the earlier suspicions was inexcusable. Bishop Murray did, however, accept in 2002 that he had not dealt well with the situation.”

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