Pope Benedict XVI today accepted the resignation Irish Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare, who admitted he failed to challenge the Irish church's policy of covering up the sel abuse of children by pedophile priests.
Moriarty becomes the third Irish bishop to resignl. Two other prelates have submitted their resignations as well, as the Vatican moves quickly to rid the Catholic Church of clergymen who covered up for priests who sexually abused children in their care for years.
Moriarty said he was stepping down because he realized that "renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past."
On Wednesday, the Pope gave a signal that action was coming: He promised "church action" to address the scandal, and the Vatican has said it would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and to protect children.
Moriarty, 73, offered to step down in December after admitting he didn't challenge the Dublin Archdiocese's past practice of concealing child-abuse complaints from police. He served as an auxiliary Dublin bishop from 1991 to 2002.
"The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian," Moriarty said in a statement Thursday. "This has been profoundly dispiriting for all who care about the church."
Two auxiliary Dublin bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, are also awaiting the Pope's decision on their resignations.
All three bishops were identified last year in an Irish government-ordered investigation into decades of cover-ups of child-abusing clergy in the Dublin Archdiocese. The report found that all bishops until 1996 colluded to protect scores of pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.
The November report did not directly criticize Moriarty. But the bishop offered his resignation after accepting he should have taken personal responsibility for challenging the bishops' practice of keeping abuse complaints within the church.
In March, the Pope accepted the resignation of Irish Bishop John Magee, who was accused of mishandling complaints against priests in his diocese of Cloyne. In December, Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick stepped down after an investigation into child sex abuse by clergymen accused him of ignoring reports of crimes by priests in his diocese.
There have been demands for more Irish bishops to resign, including for the country's top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, who has been accused of helping to cover up activities of pedophile priests.
Brady has said he would resign if he was found to have endangered children by his actions.
On Thursday, Brady praised Moriarty for his contributions to the Irish church, said he would be missed and prayed for and wished him well.
Moriarty said that in stepping down, he hoped to honor the victims who courageously came forward and said he hoped his gesture would help the church renew itself and reform.
Here is the complete text of his statement:
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has today formally accepted my resignation as Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin, which I offered on 23rd December, in the wake of the Murphy Report.
The decision to offer my resignation was the most difficult decision of my ministry. I did not anticipate resigning when I first read the Murphy Report, because I was not directly criticised. However, the Murphy Report covers far more than what individual Bishops did or did not do. Renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past. I served as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Dublin from 1991 until my appointment to this diocese in 2002. I was part of the governance of the Archdiocese prior to when correct child protection policies and procedures were implemented. Again I accept that from the time I became an Auxiliary Bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture. Once more I apologise to all survivors and their families.
I know that words of apology are not enough. Before speaking on other matters, it is important to be able to report that, learning from the past, the Irish Church now has excellent child safeguarding procedures in place. Kildare & Leighlin Diocese has fully subscribed to the definitive 'Standards and Guidance' document published by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in 2008. This is exemplified in the policy document we subsequently produced ourselves, in our training programmes undergone by priests and lay people, many of the latter having volunteered to act as 'designated person' in their parish, our use of Garda vetting and our co-operation with civil and Church audits. We remain keenly aware of the need for constant vigilance and updating to ensure that the Church is the safest possible place for children.
When I announced before Christmas that I was offering my resignation to the Holy Father, I explained what I hoped it might achieve - 'I hope it honours the truth that the survivors have so bravely uncovered and opens the way to a better future for all concerned'.
The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian. People do not recognise the gentle, endless love of the Lord in narrow interpretations of responsibility and a basic lack of compassion and humility. This has been profoundly dispiriting for all who care about the Church. As I stated in my contribution at the recent gathering of Irish Bishops with the Holy Father - 'Let us be clear, our failures have damaged our people's faith and the strength of our witness'.
The truth is also that the Church is 'at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal' (Lumen Gentium 8). I believe the spiritual well-being of the People of God demands that this principle of the Church as always in need of reform, which was embraced at the Second Vatican Council, should again come to the forefront of Church life. I believe, as I said at the recent Vatican gathering 'that the goal should be a new fellowship (cf. Acts 4:32-37); a deeper sharing of the mission that transcends the kind of clerical culture that led us here.'
In his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, as well as stressing the need for justice for survivors, Pope Benedict called for 'a new vision... to inspire present and future generations'. Baroness Nuala O'Loan, who addressed two subsequent open forums in our diocese, surely spoke for many when she said such a vision 'must involve an open, transparent, accountable Church... valuing each person as made in the image of God'. I believe that there is a tremendous wellspring of support for her conviction that 'walking away from our Church is not an option' and that, although 'working to reform it is going to involve a long and hard road... it is one which we must and can walk'.
As I recounted at the Chrism Mass in Holy Week, this fidelity and commitment is being lived out in a real and active way by members of the Church every day. I think of all the inspiring deeds of so many in our diocese - in pre-sacramental programmes, on school boards, in youth ministry, in our work with Trocaire, as part of our annual diocesan 'Reach Out' initiatives, in our Polish and African chaplaincies, in liturgy groups, in church choirs, in care for the aged, in bereavement groups, and in all the countless other acts of Christian kindness carried out unseen.
As I leave office today, this will be my abiding memory of my time as Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin - the witness of faith, hope and love in which we have been able to share in so many ways as the People of God, laity, religious and clergy, in this diocese. I offer my heartfelt thanks to one and all. It has been a privilege to serve among you these past eight years and to be part of all this.
I have every confidence that the diocese will continue on this path and rise to the challenges that lie ahead. In this season of Easter we are inspired by the account of the early Church's proclamation of the Good News of the Risen Lord in the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit who strengthened and unified those first believers is still at work in our day. I would like to end as I began eight years ago at the time of my installation with this prayer for the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin:
Lord, bless the faith community which traces its origins to Brigid, Conleth and Laserian.
May it be outstanding in charity as St. Brigid was,
may it be constant in faith as St. Conleth of Old Connell,
wise and prayerful as St. Laserian of Leighlin.
Bless its Bishop, priests, religious and laity;
fill them with the light of your love.
Bless its young people; help them to seek your truth.
Bless all who are poor or weak or wounded by life's hurts;
grant them justice, light and hope.
Sin e ar ngui tre Criost ar dTiarna, Amen.