PATSY McGARRY and PAUL CULLEN
Ireland’s Catholic bishops are meeting today for the first time since publication of the Murphy report as Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin prepare for a meeting with Pope Benedict on Friday to discuss how the Catholic Church should deal with the damage caused to it by the child abuse scandal.
The scheduled winter meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference at Maynooth is expected to be dominated by discussion of the fallout from the Murphy report and will be attended by the papal nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, who yesterday apologised for mistakes made in the Vatican’s handling of child abuse.
Following a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin in Iveagh House, Dr Leanza said: “I express my shock and dismay and certainly I understand the anger of the people and the suffering of those who were abused, so we certainly condemn this . . . If there was any mistake from our side we always apologise for this.”
Dr Leanza stressed there was no intention on the part of the Vatican not to co-operate with the Murphy commission and acknowledged that he himself should have responded to a letter from the commission.
Mr Martin said he had conveyed to the nuncio the Irish public’s “deep anger and outrage” over the Murphy report findings. He also insisted on full co-operation by the church with the ongoing inquiry by the Murphy commission into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Cloyne diocese.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said he got “a few handshakes” from his fellow bishops as the meeting started this morning in Maynooth.
Last week, Dr Martin said that just two bishops had lifted the phone to him following the publication of the Murphy report to ask if he was okay. Asked today whether more bishops had since been in contact, he said he hadn’t meant the comment “in a nasty way”.
Dr Martin was speaking to reporters during a break he took from the bishops’ meeting to say prayers at the opening by the President, Mary McAleese, of new accommodation at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross.
He said consideration of the report would take up half the agenda of the bishops’ meeting, but declined to comment otherwise at this stage.
Asked about the apology made by Dr Leanza for mistakes made in the Vatican’s handling of child abuse, Dr Martin said he hadn’t had the opportunity to consider them yesterday.
The Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, who is already in Rome, is expected to meet the Congregation of Bishops over coming days to tender his resignation.
There is a growing view that an announcement of its acceptance may be delayed and that any resignations following the Murphy report may be announced together.
Bishops named in the Murphy report include the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty, the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, the two Dublin auxiliary bishops Éamonn Walsh and Ray Field. Msgr John Dolan who was vice chancellor in Dublin from 1980 to 1997, when he became chancellor, is also named.
Bishop Éamonn Walsh told RTÉ yesterday he did not wish to comment on an Irish Times report that some Vatican sources expected he would resign this week.
Yesterday the Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said: “An awful lot of things went wrong in the past . . . Whatever price it takes, we want to remove all of that.”
A press conference that had been expected to take place this evening in Maynooth is not now going ahead.
Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin will fly to Rome tomorrow where they will meet the pope and members of the Curia at the Vatican on Friday afternoon. They are expected to speak to the media afterwards.