Pope OKs resignation of Irish bishop who didn’t challenge Dublin policy of keeping abuse quiet

By Nicole Winfield, AP
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Irish bishop resigns, says he didn’t report abuse

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who admitted he didn’t challenge the Dublin church’s policy of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare is the third Irish bishop to resign in four months as a result of the Irish sex abuse scandal. Another two have offered to go, as the Vatican comes under increasing pressure to get rid of the bishops who covered up for priests who sodomized and molested children for decades unchecked.

Hundreds of people have come forward in recent months, including in Benedict’s native Germany, accusing priests of raping and abusing them while bishops and church higher-ups turned a blind eye.

Moriarty said Thursday he was stepping down because he realized that “renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past.”

On Wednesday, Benedict had promised unspecified “church action” to confront the scandal, and the Vatican has said it would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and to protect children.

No details — other than the resignations — have been offered.

Moriarty, 73, offered to step down in December after admitting he didn’t challenge the Dublin Archdiocese’s past practice of concealing child-abuse complaints from police. He served as an auxiliary Dublin bishop from 1991 to 2002.

“The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian,” Moriarty said in a statement Thursday. “This has been profoundly dispiriting for all who care about the church.”

Two auxiliary Dublin bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, have offered to resign as well.

All three bishops were identified last year in an Irish government-ordered investigation into decades of cover-ups of child-abusing clergy in the Dublin Archdiocese. The report found that all bishops until 1996 colluded to protect scores of pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

The November report did not directly criticize Moriarty. But the bishop offered his resignation after accepting he should have taken personal responsibility for challenging the bishops’ practice of keeping abuse complaints within the church.

In March, the pope accepted the resignation of Irish Bishop John Magee, who was accused of mishandling complaints against priests in his diocese of Cloyne. In December, Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick stepped down after an investigation into child sex abuse by clergymen accused him of ignoring reports of crimes by priests in his diocese.

There have been demands for more Irish bishops to resign, including for the country’s top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, who has been accused of helping to cover up activities of pedophile priests.

Brady has said he would resign if he was found to have endangered children by his actions.

On Thursday, Brady praised Moriarty for his contributions to the Irish church, said he would be missed and prayed for and wished him well.

Moriarty said that in stepping down, he hoped to honor the victims who courageously came forward and said he hoped his gesture would help the church renew itself and reform.

The pope accepted his resignation under a code of canon law that allows bishops to step down if they are ill of for some other “grave reason” that makes them “unsuited for the fulfillment of his office.”

Moriarty is 73, two years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.

Benedict addressed the situation in the Irish church in a March 20 letter, in which he chastised Irish bishops for leadership failures and “gross errors of judgment” in handling abuse cases. But he put no blame on the church hierarchy, whom critics blame for mandating a culture of secrecy that encouraged bishops to keep abuse quiet.

Three Irish government-ordered investigations published from 2005 to 2009 have documented how thousands of Irish children suffered rape, molestation and other abuse by priests in their parishes and by nuns and brothers in boarding schools and orphanages. Irish bishops did not report a single case to police until 1996 after victims began to sue the church.

The reports have faulted Rome for sending confusing messages to the Irish church about norms to be followed and, in general, for what it called the absence of a coherent set of canon laws and rules to apply in cases of abuse.

On Thursday, the head of the Catholic Church in Britain, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, apologized for clerical abuse and said the actions of some priests had brought “deep shame to the whole church.”

Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

will not be displayed