Pope John Paul has accepted the resignation of Dr Brendan Comiskey. He was asked to step down as Bishop of Ferns because he was unsuitable for office. The Vatican has confirmed to RTÉ that it invoked the same church law as in the case of Bishop Eamonn Casey when he was forced out of office ten years ago.
The Pope has appointed Bishop Eamon Walsh as his personal caretaker of the Diocese because the handling of complaints against clergy has made it impossible to govern it in the normal way.
According to a Vatican statement, the Pope accepted Bishop Comiskey's resignation under paragraph two of Canon 401. This Church Law states that a diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.
In an equally dramatic move, Pope John Paul has appointed Bishop Eamonn Walsh on a temporary basis as his Apostolic Administrator with the powers of a diocesan bishop. The Bishops' Communications office explained that this only happens when special or very serious circumstances prevent the normal governance of a diocese.
Dr Walsh has been a bishop for twelve years. He chairs the bishops' National Child Protection Committee and is a trained barrister.
He said in his acceptance statement that he has no first-hand information of the abuse cases in the Diocese but that it is clear that young people were terribly abused by priests and that they are understandably still dealing with the anger and pain caused by this breach of trust.
Dr Walsh offered his sincere apologies to all victims of clerical abuse and their families in the Diocese. He said that they have suffered and continue to suffer, offering to meet them if they want.
Bishop Walsh promised to fully co-operate with any instrument of inquiry deemed most appropriate in the search for the truth. He added that it is only when the truth has been established that all of us can move on from the crimes that were committed and the responses made.
This morning three of the four men whose revelations about the Fr Fortune abuse saga prompted the Bishop's resignation, met Senior Counsel George Birmingham as part of his consulatations about an investigation of the affair.
One of them, Colm O'Gorman, said he was encouraged by the meeting and by Archbishops Brady's and Cardinal Connell's promise to co-operate with the Mr Birmingham, but said he'd like to know what they meant when they said "every possible co-operation" would be offered.
Meanwhile in a letter to mass goers in the diocese of Ferns, the Vicar General of the diocese, Monsignor Lorry Kehoe, said that the past two weeks had been a traumatic and difficult period for the diocese.
He described child abuse as an abhorrent evil for which the clergy of the diocese are deeply ashamed. Monsignor Kehoe also said that the new guidelines on the reporting of sex abuse will be strictly adhered to and he said that any child victim of such abuse should immediately contact the local Gardaí or the diocesan office.
The Bishop of Cork and Ross has said he is truly sorry that the Catholic Church has not treated some people fairly when priests sexually abused them.
In a letter read to Masses in the diocese, Dr John Buckley restated his policy that any priest found to have sexually abused a child or young person in his pastoral care would not be allowed to return to ministry.
Meanwhile, the country's remaining 33 serving Catholic bishops are to meet in special session in Maynooth on Monday to discuss this latest child abuse crisis.