THE Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty is one of 17 senior bishops who served in the Archdiocese of Dublin during the period investigated by the Murphy Commission.
However, the commission’s report makes few references to Dr Moriarty, 73, who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin between 1991 and 2002.
His only direct role in handling allegations of clerical abuse related to the case of Fr Edmondus – the pseudonym of a notorious paedophile priest who abused numerous victims, including Marie Collins who was sexually assaulted by him while a patient at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin in 1960 when she was just 13-years-old.
In 1993, Dr Moriarty was informed by a priest of a complaint by a parishioner about Fr Edmondus’s contact with young children while he was serving as a curate in the parish of Edenmore, Raheny.
Such contact included having young girls in his car and allowing them to change in his house before going swimming as well as spending time with children who had poor school attendance records.
In turn, Dr Moriarty discussed the problem with local priests and Archbishop Desmond Connell, and he subsequently warned Fr Edmondus about his behaviour and advised him to desist from such activities in future.
“After this the parish priest noted a change in his behaviour but others felt he still surrounded himself with children quite a bit,” stated the Murphy report.
It found that no attempt was made by the archdiocese authorities to check the archives and other files on Fr Edmondus when such complaints were made.
The Archdiocese of Dublin had been aware of complaints against the priest as far back as 1960 when Archbishop John Charles McQuaid was informed by gardaí that Fr Edmondus had taken photos of the private parts of two young girls aged 10-11 years.
Dr Moriarty told the commission that he did not have access to the archives but the Murphy report pointed out that he could have asked Archbishop Connell to conduct such a search.
In 1996, after a complaint had been made to gardaí about him, Fr Edmondus told Monsignor Alex Stenson, chancellor of the Archdiocese, he had stopped letting children change in his house after being asked to do so by Dr Moriarty.
In its conclusions about Fr Edmondus, the Murphy report said Archbishop Connell and several other priests had handled the case badly.
“When concerns emerged from Edenmore in 1993, Archbishop Connell did not check if there were other complaints,” it noted.
It did not make direct reference to Bishop Moriarty, but remarked that the failure to check back to see if there were other allegations against Fr Edmondus meant that concerns were not taken as seriously as they should have been.
“There was no proper investigation of these concerns. For example, the youth workers who first raised them were not even interviewed at the time,” the report said.
Following its publication last month, Dr Moriarty who was appointed Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in 2002, was criticised for making no reference to his own role in the report in a letter read out at masses in the diocese.
On November 30, the bishop issued a statement saying he fully accepted the report’s conclusion that the hierarchy’s attempt to avoid scandal and protect itself “had the most dreadful consequences for children and were deeply wrong”.
Following the winter meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth this month, Dr Moriarty said he did not consider there were any grounds upon which he should resign from office. He stressed that he had been “briefly mentioned but not criticised in the report”.
However, Dr Moriarty in an interview on local radio station KCLR last week, indicated he might be willing to resign in advance of his retirement in two years’ time if it would be better for the Church, the laity and abuse victims.
“I stand by my statement that I should not resign for my partial involvement in the Fr Edmondus case but I want to add that no bishop can put his own position before the good of the Church,” Dr Moriarty said.
“My position is simple. I am 73 years old and I am obliged to hand in my resignation when I turn 75. However, if it will serve the Church, the people and the victims, I am prepared to go sooner but no decision has been taken on that yet,” Dr Moriarty said.
Born in 1937, Dr Moriarty was ordained a priest in 1961 and served in a number of parishes in Dublin before being promoted to Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese in 1991.
He was appointed Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in June 2002. He is also chairman of the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Renewal, and played a lead role in promoting the canonisation of labourer and icon of the Pioneer Association Matt Talbot.
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