In a move that has stunned critics Pope Benedict XVI has rejected the resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops. Bishop Raymond Field and Bishop Eamonn Walsh had both tendered their resignations in 2009 in the wake of the Murphy report into clerical child abuse.
Both men had come under intense pressure because they had served as bishops during the period investigated by the Murphy Commission into clerical child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin. The Murphy Commission in Ireland found that sexual abuse was ‘endemic’ in boys’ institutions but that the church hierarchy protected the perpetrators and allowed them to take up new positions teaching other children after their original victims had been sworn to secrecy.
‘Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict, it has been decided that Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field will remain as auxiliary bishops,’ Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a letter to priests of the Archdiocese reported in The Irish Catholic. The two men are to be assigned revised responsibilities within the archdiocese, according to Doctor Martin.
Announcing their resignations in December, the two auxiliary bishops said: ‘It is our hope that our action may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to them.’
Now their gesture of reconciliation has been halted by the pontiff. Archbishop Martin said the two men are ‘to be assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese.’
Today an infuriated Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the press: ‘The two bishops said, when announcing their resignation, that they hoped to bring peace and reconciliation to the victims. The pope’s callous decision has done the opposite.’
I can’t imagine what it must be like for a group of gravely wronged lay people to lay siege to an organization as large as the Vatican’s, especially when their campaign to have the Church accept it’s responsibility results in high-handed and enraging dismissals like the one the Pope just delivered them this morning.
It must hurt them, beneath all their anger and outrage, it must genuinely hurt them – I mean, emotionally and in their souls. Because through his bewildering decision the Pope has diminished their suffering.
In their joint Christmas statement, when they originally announced their decisions to retire, Bishops Walsh and Field said they hoped their resignations would ‘help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to them.’
This morning the Pope made it clear they really didn’t need to apologize for anything.
The bottom line, as the Irish Times‘ Paddy Agnew points out, is that if all bishops who covered up clerical sexual abuse were permitted to resign, the episcopal ranks would be decimated. And then where would the church be? But of course, no one in the hierarchy can say that publicly. So the decision is announced in the quietest way possible, with no explanation offered.