Murphy report fallout - Bishop’s resignation necessary

Nobody should take any satisfaction at this time of year from Dr James Moriarty’s decision to resign as Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. It is a personal setback, but it had unfortunately become necessary. He had unwittingly become implicated in child abuse, even though he was accurate in saying that he did nothing wrong.

The problem was that — like many other church authorities — Dr Moriarty essentially did nothing other than pass the buck when he learned the priest identified as Fr Edmondus in the Murphy report was sexually abusing children in the Dublin diocese. As an auxiliary bishop of Dublin he was informed in 1993 there was a complaint that Fr Edmondus was having inappropriate contact with children.

Such contacts included having young girls in his car and changing in his house before going swimming. Dr Moriarty discussed the problem with local priests and informed Archbishop Desmond Connell, who warned Fr Edmondus about his behaviour.

“After this the parish priest noted a change in his behaviour but others felt he still surrounded himself with children quite a bit,” according to the Murphy report. There had been other complaints about that priest’s behaviour and those would have been apparent if the archbishop had checked the files of the archdiocese.

After a complaint to the gardaí in 1996, the priest told the chancellor of the archdiocese that he had stopped having children change in his house after being asked to do by Dr Moriarty. But the priest’s abuse had continued for four years until Marie Collins complained that he sexually abused her. In terms of the overall abuse Dr Moriarty played a very minor part. He passed the information up the chain of command, but now we know that much more was needed.

Marie Collins took no satisfaction from the resignation of the bishop who might have protected her by ensuring that her abuser was removed from contact with children years earlier. Of course, the Dr Moriarty’s mistakes were less serious than those made by others.

Despite the protestations of wounded innocence, the latest resignation is, at least, another indication of the belated realisation that responsibility must be taken for the appalling administrative conduct. The bishops continually exposed innocent children to sexual abuse in a facile attempt to protect what was essentially the unwarranted reputation of the institutional church.

The winter bishop’s conference admitted as much, but it has not been prepared to face up to the consequences of its behaviour. Ever since the publication of the Murphy report the positions of those who served as auxiliary bishops of Dublin has been untenable.

This should have been obvious to members of the hierarchy, if they had bothered to examine their own files. There is no suggestions that any of the bishops did anything malicious, and there has been no question whatever of any of them being personally involved in the actual abuse.

However, they were all part of a flawed administrative regime. Doing nothing in the circumstances essentially facilitated the abusers.

All of those bishops were informed of abuse and they could have stood up and accepted their moral and civic responsibility to insist that it had to stop, but they failed to do so. Others must go too, if we are to put this behind us.

Clarification

IN our editorial of 24 December we stated that in 1993 Bishop James Moriarty had “learned the priest identified as Fr Edmondus in the Murphy report was sexually abusing children in the Dublin diocese.”

We wish to clarify that this comment was incorrect, and that in 1993 Bishop Moriarty had no knowledge that Fr Edmondus had a history of abusing prior to his appointment to Edenmore Parish.


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