Gilmore calls for removal of bishops

Monday 30 November 2009 22.22
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Eamon Gilmore - Bishops should be removed
Eamon Gilmore - Bishops should be removed
Willie Walsh - Criticised misreading of report on clerical child sex abuse
Willie Walsh - Criticised misreading of report on clerical child sex abuse
Donal Murray - Said he will be guided by priests and people of diocese
Donal Murray - Said he will be guided by priests and people of diocese

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has said bishops found wanting by the Murphy report should immediately be removed from positions of responsibility involving State services.

Mr Gilmore said bishops who were criticised for their failures in respect of children who were victims of child abuse should be removed from being patrons of schools, from serving on boards of hospitals or from the running of youth services or from any other services funded by the Irish taxpayer.

He said whether bishops remain in office as bishops is a matter for the church.

Mr Gilmore was speaking to journalists in Belfast after he had a series of meetings with political leaders at Stormont.

Mr Gilmore's comments come after Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said that calls for the resignation of Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray are based on a misreading of the Murphy report into clerical child sex abuse.

Bishop Walsh refused to back growing demands for senior clergy criticised in the report to stand down and said damning findings were being misread.

Pressure has mounted on Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray to resign after an inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases in the Catholic Dublin Archdiocese branded his failure to investigate a paedophile priest inexcusable.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland Bishop Walsh said: 'I do know that there has been gross misreading of the Dublin report in relation to Bishop Murray. There has been very serious misreading of that.'

Judge Yvonne Murphy found hundreds of child abuse allegations were covered up by senior clergy over a 30-year period because they were obsessed with secrecy and upholding the reputation of the church.

Bishop Walsh went on: 'I'm quite uncomfortable with this kind of public trial. I'd have to ask: is it about healing of survivors or is it about some sort of desire that we need to get a head on a plate?'

Amid calls for his resignation, Bishop Murray told parishioners in Limerick yesterday that he would be guided by the priests and people of his diocese.

Rank-and-file clergy, survivors of abuse and opposition politicians have said churchmen implicated in the report who still hold a position of power should resign.

Defence Minister and Limerick TD Willie O'Dea said he was sure that Bishop Murray, who he knows personally, was examining his position and would take the appropriate action.

A group of priests and lay-people in the Limerick diocese have urged Bishop Murray to remain in office despite the Murphy Commission's findings that he handled allegations of child abuse ‘badly’ and one case ‘inexcusably’ while serving in Dublin.

The statement supporting Bishop Murray follows a meeting yesterday in the city of sixty-five priests and fifteen lay-people.

It says the bishop is a good man and they believe him when he says he never deliberately or knowingly sought to cover up or withhold information about clerical child sexual abuse brought to his attention.

It also states it would be a retrograde step for the continuing development of child protection in the diocese and wider society for him to resign.

Meanwhile, Fr Eamon Conway, a professor of Theology in the city's university has criticised what he calls the ‘scapegoating’ of Bishop Murray.

In a statement he criticises unnamed senior bishops for however inadvertently, contributing to the impression that public opinion and media pressure should decide whether a bishop should resign.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen refused to be drawn into the controversy and said it was for institutions and their members to determine the appropriateness of any individual to hold ecclesiastical office.

Bishops have also refused to call for resignations.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who has been credited for opening secret church files to investigators, said he had no authority to ask anyone to resign over the scandal.

However, he revealed that a bishop could be removed if criminal proceedings are brought.

The Garda Commissioner has said that no serving garda was criticised in the report.

In his first public comment on the report, Fachtna Murphy said that there was no place in the force today for the level of deference that was shown to members of the Catholic Church in the past.

He said the investigation now being carried out by Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney would look at the handling of allegations of clerical sexual abuse, not just by gardaí, but all church and State authorities.

He said the Assistant Commissioner would act without fear or favour, and he rejected calls for an outside body to be brought in to investigate.