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Irish bishop resigns in sex abuse scandal

'I should have fought the prevalent culture,' Moriarty says

22 April, 13:40
Irish bishop resigns in sex abuse scandal (ANSA) - Vatican City, April 22 - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop after two damning reports of child sex abuse and cover-ups over decades in the heavily Catholic country, the Vatican said.

James Moriarty, a former bishop in Dublin and now ex-bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, apologised to victims, saying "I should have fought the prevalent culture (of covering up)".

"We remain fully aware of the need for constant vigilance to ensure that the Church is the safest place possible for children," he added.

"Victims went unheard for too long," Moriarty said.

Benedict has now accepted the resignation of three Irish bishops while three others have asked to resign in the wake of two reports last year, one condemning decades-long sex abuse in Church-run schools and institutes across Ireland and the other detailing sex abuse and cover-ups in the Dublin diocese.

At Easter, Benedict sent a letter to Irish Catholics apologising for decades of abuse and cover-ups and assuring cooperation with the police.

Separately Thursday, a German bishop, Walter Mixa of Augusta in Bavaria, tendered his resignation after accusations of physical abuse.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, a victim of a priest who abused some 200 deaf boys at a school there from 1950 to 1974 started legal action against the pope in his previous role at the head of the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The unidentified victim of the late Father Lawrence Murphy is suing the pope, his former and current No.2 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and former Vatican secretary of state Angelo Sodano for fraud and negligence in allegedly not responding to letters from the victim to the Vatican in 1995.

The victim claims the Holy See never replied to his calls for Murphy to be defrocked.

He also called for "secret" Vatican lists of predator priests to be made public. Earlier this month, Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland said he too had failed to convince then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who ran the doctrinal office from 1981 until his election as Pope Benedict in 2005, of the need to defrock Murphy.

The New York Times recently reported that Ratzinger did not reply to a plea from Murphy himself to be defrocked.

The future pope, in a 1996 letter sent to Milwaukee and obtained by the NYT recently, said he was taking this line " for the good of the Church".

The Vatican claims it only heard of the case in 1998, four months before Murphy died.


Sex abuse scandals involving priests erupted in the United States in 2002, where several dioceses have since gone bankrupt because of huge settlements paid to victims. They later spread to Australia and, recently, to several European countries including Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Italy.

Friday's legal action is not the first aimed at the pope from the USA.

On April 1 a lawyer representing sex abuse victims asked a Kentucky court to call Benedict to testify, claiming the Vatican "encouraged silence".

The lawyer cited a series of documents published by the NYT which "showed the link between the then cardinal Ratzinger and the child sex abuse scandal".

Widening abuse scandals in Europe have come close to the pope with the NYT accusing him of being aware that a predator priest in Munich had been reassigned to duty when Ratzinger was archbishop there in the mid 1980s.

Benedict's then No.2 in Munich took responsibility for that decision and claimed the pope had not known of it.

Benedict has also come under fire for a 2001 directive from his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stressing the need for initial probes to be kept in-house, although his defenders say this helped him do more than any of his predecessors to tackle the scandals.

The Vatican for weeks said there was an "ignoble" media campaign to smear the pope, dismissing the reports as "idle chatter", and at Easter Benedict said that "Jesus did not respond when he was insulted".

In an apparent change of strategy the Vatican made public tough new paedophilia rules it has been using since 2003, and said Benedict would now be able to defrock priests personally.

But the change in direction was blown off course when Secretary of State Bertone said there was a link between paedophilia and homosexuality.

The Vatican later 'clarified' that he had only been referring to cases inside the Church.

During a visit to Malta last weekend Benedict had a tearful meeting with abuse victims.

On Wednesday, in his first direct public reference to the scandals, he said he had promised them more "action" on the issue, without going into specifics.

photo: Moriarty

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