Irish bishop resigns after sex abuse scandal

Associated Press/December 17,2009

Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Limerick's bishop, who was heavily criticized in an Irish investigation of clergy sex abuse of children and a church hierarchy cover-up, the Vatican said Thursday.

The one-line announcement that Monsignor Donal Murray had resigned did not mention the scandal.

It said, however, that Murray resigned under a Canon Law provision that allows bishops, younger than the mandatory retirement age of 75, to step down when they become "unsuited" to continue in the post.

Unsuitability can result from illness, or some other circumstance, such as scandal.

Murray, 69, a former assistant bishop in Dublin, had been widely expected to resign, following a devastating report issued last month that alleged that the church in Ireland shielded more than 100 child-abusing priests from the law

The Irish government-sanctioned investigation found four other serving bishops and five retired bishops, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, as playing a role in the scandal cover-up lasting for decades.

The report said that church leaders in the Dublin Archdiocese failed to inform authorities about sexual abuse by priests, while police failed to pursue allegations under the belief that church figures were above the law.

Two bishops, Martin Drennan of Galway and Eamonn Walsh of Dublin, have said they have no intention of tendering their resignation to the pope.

The Vatican has been harshly criticized in Ireland, a nation of staunch Catholic traditions, for failing to answer letters from the Dublin Archdiocese investigators.

But earlier this month, the Vatican described Benedict as being "deeply disturbed" by the sex-abuse scandal and said he will write a letter to Catholics in Ireland with the Holy See's response. It said also the pope shares the "outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by many Irish faithful.

Benedict met at the Vatican this month with senior Irish clergy to discuss a possible response.

The 720-page report found that dozens of church leaders in Ireland's most populous diocese kept secret the record of child abuse by more than 170 clerics since 1940.

Police and social workers charged with stopping child abuse didn't start getting cooperation from the church until 1995. This opened the floodgates to thousands of abuse complaints expected to cost the Dublin Archdiocese millions of euros.

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