Catholic church in crisis
Catholic church in crisis

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has admitted the Catholic church in Ireland is facing a “deep crisis” despite the resignation of the scandalised Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray.

His resignation was the “right thing” for his diocese and for the wider Irish Church, Archbishop Martin said this [Thursday] evening.

Bishop Murray and other leading clergymen have been under heavy pressure to resign in recent weeks following the Murphy commission report on clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.

The report found extensive evidence of a cover-up of child sexual abuse by church and state officials, directed by the bishopric and involving the collusion of the 26 County Garda police and the state health service.

A priest at the centre of the scandal was this week jailed for two years after admitting sexually assaulting a six-year-old altar boy more than 70 times.

The court heard that as a result of the abuse carried out by Fr Thomas Naughton, the now 33-year-old victim has twice attempted suicide, suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression.

The harrowing details revealed in court yesterday had intensified pressure for the resignation of Bishop Murray. Dr Murray’s failure to handle complaints about Naughton while he was auxiliary bishop in Dublin was described as “inexcusable” in the Murphy report.

Naughton was moved to another parish after complaints about his conduct in Wicklow in the early 1980s, and he later abused many more children in Dublin.

Archbishop Martin commended Bishop Murray’s decision to quit, saying “responsibility must be taken by all who hold a position of authority”. He admitted the Archdiocese of Dublin was now facing “serious difficulties of structure and communication at management level”.

“The Murphy report indicated how decisions were taken which were resulted in further children being abused.

“Accountability must be assumed for that and radical reform is required in the archdiocese, not just in the area of children protection,” he said.

The Vatican confirmed this morning that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the resignation of Bishop Murray.

In a brief statement, the Vatican confirmed: “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Limerick, presented by Monsignor Donal Brendan Murray, in conformity with article 401,2 of Code of Canon Law.”

Article 401.2 of Canon Law, as promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1984, reads: “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly required to present his resignation from office”.

In his statement, Archbishop Martin confirmed he would be meeting those in this diocese who are named in the report “about the way this archdiocese is managed” and about changes he considers vital for the future of the Dublin archdiocese.

He said the process would not be complete until early in the New Year. “This is without doubt, a period of deep crisis in this archdiocese.”

“Priests and people of this diocese see there can be no healing without radical change. Along with many others, I am committed to that change,” he said.

In an address to churchgoers at Mass at St John’s Cathedral in Limerick this morning, Bishop Murray said he “humbly” apologised to those who were abused as children. He had heard the views of many survivors, especially in the days following the publication of the Murphy report.

“Some expressed the wish that I should resign; others asked me not to do so. I know full well that my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day. I humbly apologise once again to all who were abused as little children. 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.”

The bishop said he had asked the Pope to allow him 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.”

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