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Pope refuses to accept resignation of two Irish bishops

By on Thursday, 12 August 2010

Pope Benedict XVI has decided not to accept the resignation of two Dublin auxiliary bishops who resigned in the wake of the Murphy Report investigation into clerical child abuse in the archdiocese.

Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh resigned on December 24 after coming under intense pressure because they served as bishops during the period investigated by the Murphy Commission.

In a letter to priests of the Dublin archdiocese, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin confirmed the development.

“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,” he said.

Archbishop Martin said the two men are “to be assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese.”

Both bishops initially resisted calls for their resignation. However, both sent resignation letters to Rome after Archbishop Martin apparently failed to give them his total support.

When asked in December 2009 whether he had confidence in his auxiliaries, Archbishop Martin said he had confidence “in their ministry,” but did not go further. Within 24 hours, both auxiliaries announced they had sent their letters of resignation to Rome.

Bishops Field and Walsh were among four Irish bishops who offered their resignation after a judicial report found that there had been a culture of cover-up of child sexual abuse in Dublin over several decades.

Earlier, Pope Benedict accepted the resignations of Bishops Donal Murray of Limerick and James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin. Bishop Murray’s failure to properly investigate an allegation of sexual abuse was described in the judicial report as inexcusable. Bishop Moriarty said he resigned because he had failed to challenge the prevailing culture within the church.

Andrew Madden, who was abused as an altar boy in Dublin, said he was “disappointed” by the Pope’s decision not to accept the auxiliary bishops’ resignations. However, he said, “I am not surprised; I have long since given up hope of the Catholic Church getting its act together when it comes to child protection.

“The Catholic Church, right from the Vatican down, has refused to fully acknowledge this problem,” Mr Madden said.

Reacting to Archbishop Martin’s announcement, Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement saying: “By rejecting the resignations of two complicit Irish bishops, the Pope is rubbing more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of child sex abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics.

“He’s sending an alarming message to church employees across the globe: Even widespread documentation of the concealing of child sex crimes and the coddling of criminals won’t cost you your job in the Church,” the statement said.

  • William

    Am I missing something here?
    1. The bishops in question erred, seriously mind you. They offered their resignations which amounts to taking responsibility. I thought we Catholics are supposed to be forgiving? Has it occurred to anyone else that perhaps the Holy Father, rather than intending to rub salt in people's wounds, is demonstrating a father's love for ALL God's children entrusted to his care? Have we lost sight of the fact that Catholics are supposed to offer people hope? As difficult as it may be, holding a grudge is the thing that will rob abuse victims of the freedom and healing needed. I know.
    2. Since when is it a “job” to be a bishop? A bishop doesn't lose his “job”. He is a successor to the Apostles, a member of a college. If the bishops have demonstrated genuine remorse, and it appears they have, they will likely be the staunchest defenders of children and justice now that the spotlight has been trained on them. Let them serve. It won't be easy for them. That is their cross to bear. My heart goes out to the victims of abuse. As for those offended by the bishops' reinstatement – don't be offended – try to forgive.

  • DogmaBites

    It's not truly taking responsibility if nothing happens to you. I find the calls that the victims forgive the perpetrators appalling. If you choose to forgive someone who harmed you, that's fine. However, you cannot require that some other victim of such a serious crime to simply forgive, especially when the person who covered up the crime receives no punishment.

    From your logic, once someone is a bishop, there is no crime they could commit or cover up that would cause them to stop being a bishop.

    The idea that clergy cannot be fired and should simply be forgiven has helped this scourge go on. As a bishop, you can't lose. Cover up everything you can. If it works, no one finds out. If it doesn't, you keep your job anyway.

  • Leo

    There is an issue of moral integrity at stake. The clerical leadership must do everything in its power to proclaim the gospel message and show us, the faithful, that we can trust them to give honest leadership

  • EditorCT


    It is always a mistake to try to defend the indefensible. These two rogue bishops should have been sacked, not permitted the luxury of offering their resignations, let alone have their resignations refused. Gimme strength!

    This is NOT about “forgiveness” but about the Pope doing his duty. The only reason we have a Pope is to protect, defend and promote the Catholic Faith (not Islam or any other religion, by the way) and in so doing, to protect us from dissent, heresy and, well, criminal clergy. Like, that's pretty much the basics.

    I mean, it's difficult read what Pope Benedict said on his election, and keep a straight face. This is a Pope who publicly lamented the “filth” (to use his own word) in the Church, asked us all to pray that he would not run for fear of the wolves, and yet here he is presented with a classic case of the very “filth” he denounced, a couple of resignations from said “wolves” – bishops known to be complicit in covering up abuse cases – and what does he do? Insists that they stay in post! Outrageous!

    It's not about “forgiveness” – that is an entirely separate matter. If someone perpetrated a crime against you or one of your loved ones, then, thanks to the grace of God, you may well be able to forgive them. You must. But that doesn't mean they should not be punished for the offence. How would you feel if the Judge let a criminal go free, on the grounds that we all need to learn how to “forgive”? Crackers.

  • Grumman

    Something here needs to be remembered. These two men are Auxiliary Bishops in Dublin. Neither of them is an ordinary. The authority of an auxiliary amounts to warming the bench he is sitting on. I think in this case Rome may be acting responsibly. As far as not waiting for guilty bishops to resign, but firing them, I am all for that after, of course, the legal process has been completed.