Pope rejects resignations of Irish bishops after child abuse report
Vatican says pontiff did not accept resignations of two men who served in Dublin diocese during period investigated by Murphy commission
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
The pope has rejected the resignations of two Irish bishops after their diocese was severely criticised in a report into child abuse in Dublin.
The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had not accepted the resignations of Bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh, who served as bishops in the Dublin diocese during the period investigated by the Murphy commission.
The two auxiliary bishops had offered their resignations on Christmas Eve 2009, in the wake of the Murphy report.
The pair, who are to be given revised responsibilities within the diocese, had initially resisted calls to quit.
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The Irish Times - August 11, 2010
Pope rejects resignation of two Dublin auxiliary bishops
by PAMELA NEWENHAM
The resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops, announced in the wake of the Murphy report into clerical child abuse, have been rejected by Pope Benedict XVI.
Bishop Raymond Field and Bishop Eamonn Walsh tendered their resignations on Christmas Eve 2009 after coming under intense pressure because they had served as bishops during the period investigated by the Murphy Commission into clerical child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
"Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict, it has been decided that Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field will remain as auxiliary bishops," Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a letter to priests of the archdiocese seen by the Irish Catholic.
The two men are to be assigned revised responsibilities within the archdiocese, according to Dr Martin.A spokesman for the Catholic communications office said this means the two men will be able to administer confirmation in the Dublin diocese over the next year.
Announcing their resignations in December, the two auxiliary bishops said: "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."
Dr Walsh was appointed auxiliary bishop in Dublin in April 1990, while Dr Field was appointed on September 21st, 1997.
On November 26th 2009 the Murphy report was published. It found that allegations about 'Fr Dante' (a pseudonym) in 1997, which were also addressed by Bishop Walsh, had been dealt with appropriately by the archdiocese.
Concerning Fr Noel Reynolds, the commission report records that Bishop Walsh had been informed by a social worker that a client of hers had alleged she had been abused by Fr Reynolds. Bishop Walsh “advised her to write to the chancellor”.
The Murphy Commission found allegations against Fr Horatio (a pseudonym), and with which Bishop Field had been involved, were dealt with appropriately by the archdiocese. Where “Fr Sergius” was concerned, Bishop Field told the commission he believed he was dealing with a priest who had an alcohol problem and was not aware of abuse complaints against him.
The commission found information given by Bishop Field to priests in the parish to which 'Fr Benito' was assigned in December 2003 "was certainly not complete or sufficiently specific". It was concerned "about the failure to inform Bishop Field about the advisory panel’s perception that he had delayed in reporting a complaint of child sex abuse".
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The Irish Times - August 14, 2010
Focus must shift to why good bishops do bad things
Resignation calls may render injustice to clerics accused of not challenging the culture, writes BREDA O'BRIEN
NUALA O’LOAN, former police ombudsman in Northern Ireland, says insisting that bishops Walsh, Field and Drennan resign in the wake of the Murphy report would perpetuate injustice.
Is she right? In order to judge, it is necessary to do what she did, and read the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation’s report into the handling of clerical child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004.
Reading the report of the commission, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, is not easy. It is not just the depraved details of abuse that shock. There is no avoiding the stark failure to prioritise the needs and rights of children.
The church put “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets” above the need to protect children. There is no spinning or wriggling away from that reality. As a result, the lives of thousands of innocent children were blighted.
Looked at in that way, the resignations of a few auxiliary bishops are neither here nor there. There was a massive collective failure, and perhaps the only appropriate gesture was that allegedly suggested by one member of the bishops’ conference – that every bishop in Ireland resign.
It was certainly the way Bishop Jim Moriarty felt. Although the Murphy report did not find he had done wrong, he felt he had not challenged the culture enough, and should therefore go. But here’s the question – just how much do you have to have done to qualify as challenging the culture? And when?
Take Bishop Eamonn Walsh. He was commended in the report into allegations of clerical sexual abuse in Ferns for his help and support. “This level of co-operation went beyond anything the inquiry could have required or which a court of law could have compelled.”
On a Prime Time programme following the Ferns report, Colm O’Gorman said: “I have no difficulty, Eamonn, in accepting your apology – your heartfelt apology or expression of regret that this happened . . . I accept your bona fides, I accept your absolute integrity in determining that this won’t happen again.”
At that time, O’Gorman’s worry was there was no guarantee other bishops would act in the same way. Since then, O’Gorman has decided Eamonn Walsh’s work in Ferns does not constitute challenging the culture, despite the fact some priests in Ferns felt the bishop had gone so far that their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty was being undermined.
The Murphy report is savage about the leadership structure in the Dublin archdiocese. “For most of the time covered by the commission’s remit, there was nothing resembling a management structure in the archdiocese . . . no clear job description for the auxiliary bishops . . . no clear delegated authority to deal with specific problems as they arose . . . might not be aware of the full background of each priest.”
The commission singles out four auxiliary bishops for particular censure. Bishop Walsh and Bishop Field do not feature. (Nor does Bishop Drennan.) Bishop Field was not appointed until 1997. The commission says the situation began to improve with the advent of the Framework document in 1996.
In short, Bishop Field became a bishop when Archbishop Desmond Connell had finally begun to “challenge the culture” himself. In the one case involving Bishop Field, that of Fr Benito, in 2001-2002, gardaí believed the complaints lacked veracity, and no prosecution ensued. A psychological report declared Fr Benito had no attraction to young children. He did, shamefully, have an affair with a vulnerable 17-year-old.
The commission complained it was extraordinary that Bishop Field was not informed about (or presumably, given a chance to correct) misapprehensions the Child Protection Committee had about what the bishop knew, and when. In short, wrong was done to Bishop Field.
The commission also considered Bishop Field was not specific enough with a parish priest about Fr Benito. He gave enough detail, however, that the parish priest’s “antennae were out at all times” regarding the priest.
The commission makes it abundantly clear the auxiliary bishops were in an impossible position, were kept uninformed, and had no real authority. Yet they are being treated as if they were fully accountable. It is hard to see how this is reasonable or fair.
The report was far, far more harsh about Cardinal Connell than about these two men, although it did also say that much of the positive change happened during his time.
Cardinal Connell’s obsession with secrecy extended to attempting to prevent the commission from getting hold of documents. Perhaps the media decided not to focus on Cardinal Connell, an elderly, very unwell man, who has already retired. But if they were being consistent, they would have been demanding he return his red hat.
It is a shame that Archbishop Martin is not available for interview and comment. His silence will inevitably be construed as enforced by the Vatican.
We do not know why Archbishop Martin made it abundantly clear he did not have confidence in his auxiliary bishops. It came as a shock to the auxiliaries. We do not know why he has decided to accept they will return to ministry. It is unfair to them and unfair to us. Perhaps Archbishop Martin thought the best way forward was a clean sweep of anyone in authority during the dark years. We don’t know, because he has not told us.
However, he said something simple and profound during one interview. “Sometimes good people do bad things.”
He was not talking about child abuse, but decisions made which endangered children. If we are to learn anything from this awful period, it will not be from merely erasing anyone associated with the past – like when the Soviets erased Trotsky from pictures that featured Lenin. We need to reflect on what allowed good people to do bad things. It will mean reflecting on what made good people do good things when given the opportunity, as Eamonn Walsh did in Ferns and on the episcopal child protection committee.
The church will not emerge from this dark period easily. Nor should it. Even when it has proven to public satisfaction it finally “gets it” on child safeguarding, and that day is far in the future, this week’s report of alleged serial abuse of one vulnerable man by three clerical classmates in all likelihood is an indication of other scandals to come. Will it never end?
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