Pope Accepts Irish Prelate's Resignation

Bishop Murray of Limerick Steps Down Amid Scandal

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, after an official report on clergy sex abuse accused him of failing to adequately deal with allegations brought to his attention as prelate.

According to a communiqué from the Holy See, the Pope accepted the bishop's resignation according to Canon 401 of the Code of Canon Law, which stipulates that a bishop can resign for a "grave cause" that diminishes his capacity to govern. The resignation went into force today.

The 69-year-old bishop received pressure to step down since the Nov. 26 publication of an official report into clergy sexual abuse from 1975 to 2004 in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Bishop Murray was an auxiliary bishop there from 1982 to 1996.

Bishop Murray is the only active bishop named in the report for failing to deal properly with sexual abuse cases.

In a Dec. 2 interview with the Limerick Leader, Bishop Murray affirmed that in conscience, he did not consider himself involved in a cover-up, and attributed any failings in his handling of allegations to inexperience and naïveté. Both the bishop and the report itself have pointed to failures in the system of internal communication within the archdiocese.

Today, Bishop Murray announced in St. John's Cathedral in Limerick that the Pope had accepted his resignation.

"I have heard the views of many survivors, especially in the days following the publication of the Murphy Report," he said. "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."

The prelate reiterated his apology and affirmed to survivors that his primary concern "is to assist in every way that I can, on their journey toward finding closure and serenity."

He continued: "A bishop is meant to be a person who seeks to lead and inspire all the people of the diocese in living as a community united in the truth and love of Christ. I asked the Holy Father to allow me to 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."

"We are people who believe that God’s mercy and God’s healing are without limit," he affirmed, citing an earlier statement. "We are meant to be bearers of that hope to one another and especially to people whose trust was betrayed when they were just little children and who endured the terror, helplessness and suffering inflicted by a frightening and dominant adult. They should always have a special place in our prayers."

Praying for victims

Bishop Murray had informed his collaborators Dec. 1 of his request to resign.

On Dec. 7, he met with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who agreed to present the request to the Holy Father at his weekly meeting with the Pontiff on Dec. 12.

The day before that, the Pope had met with the president of the Irish bishops' conference, Cardinal Sean Brady, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

A communiqué from the Vatican following that meeting affirmed, "The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church."

It added that "His Holiness asks Catholics in Ireland and throughout the world to join him in praying for the victims, their families and all those affected by these heinous crimes."