Irish Catholic bishops say they want to “humbly ask for forgiveness” after the shocking details of the cover-up of sex scandals involving priests was revealed. 

All the bishops were meeting at their annual winter session in Maynooth and issued a statement afterward.

It said:  “We are deeply shocked by the scale and depravity of abuse as described in the report. We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognize that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church.

“The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness.”

The report “raises very important issues for the Church in Ireland, including the functioning of the bishops’ conference and how the lay faithful can be more effectively involved in the life of the Church”.

The bishops say they will ask the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children to find “a mechanism by which to ensure that the Church’s current policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that allegations of abuse are properly handled,” the statement read.

Today, Cardinal Seán Brady and the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, will go  to Rome where they will meet Pope Benedict XVI and senior Vatican figures Friday.

Meanwhile, two bishops named in the Murphy Report, the Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan, and Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Éamonn Walsh, made comments on the report's findings.

Drennan told the Irish Times he was comfortable with the report as it “says nothing negative about me.”

Walsh said: “If I had done any wrong, I’d be gone. If on the other hand, the perception continued among the people that I was somebody who was complicit in all of this, then that would be a barrier in my ministry and I couldn’t even minister as a priest or a bishop if that were to continue.”

Walsh was an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin Archdiocese during the height of the scandal..