Catholic bishops gathered for an extraordinary general meeting today in the wake of the damning report into clerical child sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese.
Just days after Pope Benedict summoned them to a meeting in Rome next month the senior clergymen held talks in St Patrick’s College Maynooth on the devastating scandal which has seen four bishops stand down.
In a statement they said they wanted to ensure the Church protected children and dealt with allegations of abuse properly.
“Since the publication of the Murphy report, bishops have been listening to the widespread and justifiable anger and frustration from survivors, priests and laity across their dioceses.
“Bishops recognise that, in the critical area of safeguarding children, people want accountability and transparency in terms of policy and procedures.”
Eighteen of the 33 Irish Catholic bishops attended the Maynooth meeting.
Four bishops dramatically resigned last month after the Murphy inquiry unveiled a catalogue of paedophilia and subsequent cover-ups over three decades by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin.
Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field bowed to weeks of intense pressure and announced at Christmas Eve services that they were quitting their posts.
They were the latest senior clerics to stand down after Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty and Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray resigned over the damning Murphy report.
James Moriarty was the only one of the four to attend today‘s meeting. Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, who has faced down calls for his resignation, was also present.
All-Ireland Primate Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin met Pope Benedict in Rome last month over the inquiry, at which the Pontiff expressed his distress over the findings and promised a pastoral letter.
The lay group Voice of the Faithful Ireland has warned the papacy would lose all moral authority if the promised pastoral letter does not address the issue of the widespread abuse cover- up by bishops.
It demanded that all bishops implicated in the cover-up resign immediately.
“The reluctance of implicated bishops to resign, and the failure of the papacy to declare any such intent, have so seriously damaged the moral prestige of the office of Catholic bishops, and of the papacy, that recovery may already be impossible,” it said.
The meetings at the Vatican on February 15 and 16 are expected to discuss the Church’s response to both the Murphy and Ryan inquiries although Vatican sources refused to speculate on them.