VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An Irish bishop criticized for his handling of cases of sexual abuse of children by priests in the diocese of Dublin has resigned, the Vatican said on Thursday.
Donal Murray is the first Irish bishop to resign since the publication last month of a damning report that said Church leaders in the overwhelmingly Catholic country had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.
The Vatican statement did not mention the scandal but said the pope had accepted Murray’s resignation according to a clause of Canon (Church) Law that calls on bishops to quit if they cannot fulfill their duties for a “serious reason.”
Ireland has been in a state of shock since the publication of the Murphy report, which said the Church had “obsessively” hidden child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.
Murray served for 14 years, until 1996, as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Dublin before being appointed to the diocese of Limerick.
The report said that of the 13 auxiliary (assistant) bishops in the archdiocese who knew about complaints of child sexual abuse over that period, four — including Murray — “dealt particularly badly with complaints.”
It said the archdiocese had been more preoccupied with protecting the reputation of the church than safeguarding children’s welfare.
Murray “did not deal properly” with the suspicions and concerns expressed to him in relation to one priest, Father Tom Naughton, in 1983, the report said.
A short time later, evidence of Naughton’s abusing emerged in another parish.
“Bishop Murray’s failure to reinvestigate the earlier suspicions was inexcusable,” the report said.
Irish church leaders last week met the pope and said the scandal would lead to a shake-up of the Irish church. The Pope expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” over the affair.
Reporting by Silvia Aloisi in Rome and Antonella Ciancio in Dublin; editing by Andrew Roche