Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray’s decision to resign following criticism of his handling of allegations of child sexual abuse was the “right thing” for his diocese and for the wider Irish Church, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
The Vatican confirmed this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the Bishop Murray.
The bishop is one of a number of auxiliary bishops criticised in the Murphy commission report into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.
In a statement this evening, Archbishop Martin commended Bishop Murray's decision to resign, saying “responsibility must be taken by all who hold a position of authority”.
“The Murphy report indicated how decisions were taken which 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.
Cardinal Seán Brady said he acknowledged and respected the decision of Bishop Murray.
In a brief statement, the Vatican earlier 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”.
Asked about the “other grave cause” which prompted Bishop Murray’s resignation, senior Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told The Irish Times : “That seems to me obvious, given the situation that had been created by the publication of the (Murphy) Report and given that he was one of the people involved in the events dealt with by the report. For that reason and for the good of the church, for a greater serenity, he spontaneously presented his resignation.”
Asked if Bishop Murray had met with the pope whilst in Rome last week, Father Lombardi said: “I don’t believe he did, I have no information in regard to that, as far as I know the normal procedure was followed and that would mean that Bishop Murray discussed his situation with Cardinal Re at the Congregation of Bishops. Then the Cardinal will have informed the Holy Father.
Fr Lombardi acknowledged that the resignation had been expected by the Holy See, saying: “This was not a surprise, he was in Rome a number of days ago and he presented his resignation off his own initiative and his own will. The diocese now remains vacant and a diocesan administrator will now be elected until such time as a successor, a new Bishop is appointed, all in line with normal practice.”
Asked if the resignation of Bishop Murray might be merely the first of several resignations by those mentioned in the Murphy report, Fr Lombardi said: “I have no idea and I have nothing to say about that."
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."