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Pope Rejects Resignations of Irish Bishops Accused in Sex Abuse Crisis

4 years ago
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If Pope Benedict XVI is trying to dig the Catholic Church out of the sex abuse scandal, he only seems to be making the hole deeper.

That's the apparent consensus after it was reported that the pope has rejected the resignations of two bishops in Ireland who asked to quit last December after they were named in an independent report for their lack of diligence and action in the country's awful history of the sexual and physical abuse of children by priests.

The bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, are auxiliary, or assistant bishops, to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who was sent to Dublin to clean up the abuse mess. Martin, who was profiled by PoliticsDaily earlier this year, had pushed Walsh and Field to resign, which they did in Christmas Eve letters to the pope.

Pope Benedict XVITwo other bishops criticized in the government's report on church abuse -- Bishop Donal Murray and Bishop Jim Moriarty -- have had offers of resignation accepted by the Vatican. A fifth bishop named in the report, Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway, has resisted calls for his resignation.

The Vatican's rejection of the resignations of Walsh and Field is seen as a blow to Martin's efforts.

"The Vatican [was] not impressed with the way Diarmuid Martin went on PrimeTime [an Irish television news program] and called on other bishops to be accountable," Garry O'Sullivan, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper in Dublin, told The Associated Press. "It's not the way business is done in Rome."

The Irish Catholic first obtained a copy of a letter Martin sent to priests, in which he said the Vatican decided that the bishops would remain in office but would be "assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese." Neither Archbishop Martin nor the auxiliaries would comment or detail what those new responsibilities would entail.

Other analysts suggested that behind the Vatican's rejection was the fear of a "domino effect" in which any bishop or cardinal implicated in the abuse crisis could be pushed to resign, which is a nightmare scenario to a tradition-minded pope like Benedict XVI.

"In other words, there may still be many Irish bishops with 'mishandling/bureaucratic,' sex abuse skeletons still in the cupboard who would also have to resign," Paddy Agnew wrote in The Irish Times.

That would be fine with sex abuse victims, who were outraged at the decision to reject the resignations.


"So much was expected of the pontiff, and so little was delivered," said John Kelly, leader of Survivors of Child Abuse, an Irish advocacy group. "The pope said that priests and bishops needed to surrender themselves to the demands of justice. Here were two of many who did surrender themselves -- and they've been refused," Kelly said. "That sends out a signal that there is to be no change, no closure for victims and no accountability."


Abuse survivor Marie Collins also said she was "at a loss" and "past being angry."

The church was not "going to be accountable or take responsibility." She felt "people, survivors in particular, are also entitled to an explanation as to why Bishop Moriarty's resignation was accepted but Bishop Walsh's and Bishop Field's were not."

In the United States, SNAP, or The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, chastised Benedict for "rubbing more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of child sex abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics."

Media reaction was blistering as well.

Writing in The Herald of Ireland, Terry Prone accused the Vatican of "arrogance." He said the way the news was communicated was typical of the Vatican, and said that "somewhere along the line, the officer class in the Catholic Church decided they no longer needed to explain and persuade and motivate. They could just tell the faithful. Or not tell them, as in this case."

"Latest Papal diktat spells doom for people's church" ran the headline in John Cooney's column in the Irish Independent, while Kevin Clarke, writing on the blog of America magazine, a leading Catholic weekly in the United States, searched for an explanation.

"Could the Curia [the pope's advisors] truly be so oblivious to the anger and frustration of average Catholics worldwide trying to make sense of the church's response to years of sexual abuse by clergy on Catholic children?" Clarke asked. "It doesn't seem possible."

For many, it now seems more than possible, but highly probable.

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