The Catholic hierarchy was today facing a damaging rift after a bishop publicly clashed with a senior colleague over the inexcusable mishandling of child sex abuse.
As the fall-out from a report on the cover-up of paedophile priests deepened, Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray hit back over calls for him to stand up and take responsibility for his actions.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last night warned he was unhappy with the response of clergy named and shamed in a damning state inquiry and called on them to address abuse survivors directly.
But Bishop Murray, who failed to properly investigate abusive priests, defended his actions since its publication and maintained he has already given a thorough public response.
“Bishop Murray is not looking to save his position,” his spokesman said.
“He has merely entered into a process of engagement with the people and priests of his diocese as to whether his ministry is a hindrance or help to the diocese.
“We would also like to stress that full consideration is being given to the opinions of all members of the public, not least those in the Archdiocese of Dublin and, particularly, survivors of clerical child sex abuse during Bishop Murray’s time there as an auxiliary bishop.
“All voices are being heard.”
Bishop Murray previously said his future in the Church will be guided by the priests and people in his diocese – who later backed him to stay in his position.
His spokesman said that since the Murphy report was published last Thursday the Bishop has also given full and frank responses to the media.
He added that a letter of apology was read out at Masses over the weekend, while the Bishop’s own homily on Sunday in Limerick city addressed the subject.
However, Archbishop Martin – who opened secret church files to investigators revealing senior churchmen shielded paedophile priests to protect the reputation of the church – said he was writing to Bishop Murray and others to warn their responses are a matter for the people of the Dublin and not their own dioceses.
He said those implicated had to take responsibility for what they did, adding they should publicly come forward and face the people where the abuse took place - instead of being hunted or pushed.
Survivors of abuse have called on the Vatican to intervene and deal with the bishops named in the report.
But last week’s report by the Commission of Investigation into child abuse in Dublin revealed that two letters requesting information from the Pope’s ambassador, the Papal Nuncio, were not answered.
A similar request to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith led to a missive to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the commission was not going through the proper diplomatic procedures.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Brian Cowen defended the Vatican’s refusal to deal directly with the investigation into paedophile priests in the Dublin diocese.
He insisted Rome’s effective snub of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s inquiry was in keeping with international law concerning diplomatic channels.
Elsewhere, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern revealed that calls to a special Garda telephone line set up after the Ryan report into child abuse in church and state-run schools have resulted in about 60 cases being actively investigated - with many expected to result in files being forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.