Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said the Murphy Commission report was a crushing verdict that the good name and standing of the Church as an institution was placed above the safety of children.

He said it showed that as an institution the Catholic Church had placed itself above the safety of children.

Mr Cowen said there must be no ambiguity about the fact that all institutions and individuals are answerable to the law of the land, whatever their status and it is for those institutions and their members to determine the appropriateness of any individual to hold ecclesiastical office.

He said: ‘It is a savage irony that a policy of cover-up that may have been borne of a misguided effort to avoid scandal has shaken the faith and confidence of many people.

‘The Government will be considering a report by Minister Andrews on the present state of the audit of Diocesan practice being conducted by the HSE.’

A survivor of clerical child sexual abuse has criticised the Taoiseach for failing to tell bishops censured by the Murphy Commission to resign as patrons of schools.

Andrew Madden said this failure underlined that the State continued to show the undue deference to Catholic bishops and priests for which it was criticised in the Commission's Report.

Mr Madden said Bishops Murray of Limerick and Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin had been bishops in Dublin at the time when the diocese was found to have sacrificed the protection of children to the protection of the Church's reputation and the preservation of its assets.

He said it was wholly inappropriate for Mr Cowen to say that it was now a matter for themselves whether or not they continue to hold offices which made them patrons of most state-funded schools in their dioceses.

Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick said that at no time did he fail to act on an allegation of sexual abuse that he received while he was an auxiliary bishop of Dublin.

In a letter read at Masses in Limerick this evening, he said it was a matter of the greatest regret to him if any action or omission of his had contributed to the suffering of children who were abused.

The Murphy Report described one of Bishop Murray's responses to an allegation as ‘inexcusable’.