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Bishop resigns over child sex abuse

Msgr Donal Murray cited in Irish 'cover-up' report

17 December, 15:22
Bishop resigns over child sex abuse

(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 17 - An Irish bishop resigned on Thursday after being criticised in a report that found the Irish Catholic Church covered up the sexual abuse of children in Dublin for decades.

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray, former auxiliary bishop of Dublin, the Vatican said.

Msgr Murray, 64, who came to the Rome last week and offered his resignation, is the first official to resign since the publication last month of the Murphy report.

In a statement to his parishioners, Murray said: ''I know full well that my resignation cannot cancel out the pain that the surviving victims of abuse suffered in the past and continue to suffer every day''.

''I humbly ask for forgiveness once more from all those who were abused when they were little children''. The Murphy report, released November 26, found that four former archbishops of Dublin failed to report child sex abuse to the police from the 1960 to the 1980s.

It listed 320 people who complained of abuse between 1974 and 2004 and said a further 130 complaints against priests in Dublin had been made since May 2004.

The archdiocese only started notifying civil authorities in 1995, it found.

The pope discussed the Murphy report last Friday in the Vatican with Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Church, and the archbishop of Dublin, Msgr Diarmuid Martin.

There had been speculation that Murray, currently bishop of Limerick, would resign at the meeting.

Instead he stayed on in Rome as the Vatican weighed his fate for shunting around a paedophile priest, Father Thomas Naughton, instead of reporting him in the 1980s.

Naughton, 78, was jailed Wednesday for three years for abusing a boy at least 70 times between 1982 and 1984. The Murphy report found that Msgr Murray, who tendered his resignation as archbishop of Limerick earlier this month, had acted ''inexcusably''. After his meeting with the bishops and the heads of the relevant Vatican departments on December 11, Benedict vowed to get to the bottom of the scandal and make sure abuse can never happen again.

In a statement issued by the Vatican, he noted that one of the crucial aspects of the report was the role played by the leaders of the Irish church, ''who bear the ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children''.

Speaking out for the first time in the wake of the report, the pope said he was ''shocked and anguished''.

He expressed his ''deep regret for the actions committed by some members of the clergy who betrayed their solemn promises to God as well as the trust placed in them by the victims, their families, and society in general''.

''The Holy Father shares the sense of outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland.

The pope asked Catholics in Ireland and around the world to pray for all those affected by these ''hateful crimes''.

He vowed ''to find the best way to develop effective and sure strategies to prevent (such events) recurring''.

In the wake of the report, the head of the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse group urged Benedict to go to Ireland and apologise for his clergy's behaviour.

The Murphy report was the second of two detailing abuse this year.

In May the Ryan report published records of 70 years of abuse at orphanages and industrial schools run by Catholic religious orders across Ireland.

Ireland, a nation that once looked to the Church for leadership, has seen increasing numbers turn from it.

Calls for criminal cases against priests have been made by the country's top politicians including President Mary McAleese.

YEARS OF SCANDAL IN FOUR COUNTRIES.

Since the mid-1990s the Catholic Church has been hit by child abuse scandals in the United States, Australia and Canada as well as Ireland.

The Church says some 80% of the estimated 5,000 priests involved acted in the US, where huge settlements have been made to victims.

In April 2008 Pope Benedict made a six-day tour of the US, visiting Washington and New York but not Boston, the epicentre of America's clergy sex abuse scandal. However, he met and prayed with six Boston victims in Washington, saying ''no words'' could convey his shock and regret.

During the visit, victims' groups reiterated their criticism of the Church's treatment of former Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law who resigned in December 2002 when unsealed court records revealed he had moved paedophile priests among church assignments without notifying parishioners.

After his resignation, he was transferred to Rome where he now holds several authoritative posts including archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

The abuse scandal led to the bankruptcy of several US dioceses including Washington, Arizona and California.

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