Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of an American bishop accused of allowing an alleged paedophile priest from his diocese to flee to Mexico.

Bishop Daniel Walsh of the diocese of Santa Rosa in California resigned under an article in church law invoking a ‘grave cause’, which has in the past included a failure by the prelate in question to report a suspected paedophile to police.

A statement from the Vatican makes no mention of why Pope Benedict had asked the 73-year-old bishop to resign beyond saying he did so under Canon 401, paragraph 2 of church law.

This states that ‘a bishop who has become less able to fulfil his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office’.

The controversy around the former bishop dates back to 2006, when Father Xavier Ochoa admitted to him that he had abused young boys.

The police were not told for four days, however, by which time Fr Occhoa had fled to Mexico.

Following a civil case, the diocese was ordered to pay $5m to the three victims, which included $20,000 from Bishop Walsh's own funds.

Bishop Walsh is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Robert Vasa who was appointed to the diocese in March with automatic right of succession. Bishop Walsh had asked for the assistance of a coadjutor.