Under Pressure Bishop Moriarty Rules out Resignation

Offaly Express
December 16, 2009

Ireland -- T HAS been an unprecedented month for the Catholic Church in Ireland. The fall out from the Murphy report on Child Sexual abuse in Dublin has led to the intervention of Pope Benedict and a big shake up looks inevitable.

Bishop Jim Moriarty speaks extensively to David Power on why he believes he should not resign over the new report on the abuse of children by Catholic priests

Bishop Jim Moriarty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, has bee n caught up in the eye of the story. The head of the church in large parts of Laois and Offaly is one of five Bishop's named in the report.

Since the report's publication there have been consistent calls on all five bishops to resign. But Bishop Jim Moriarty has stressed that he will not be stepping down as he could see no advantage from such a move.

In a extensive interview with the Offaly Express this week, Bishop Moriarty said he had given the Murphy Report into clerical child sex abuse in the Dublin Arch Diocese very thorough reflection and had also given his own future some consideration.

"I have discussed the matter with Cardinal Brady and I have consulted with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and other people around the place and it doesn't seem to me to be any advantage to any group to resign at the present time," he explained.

Bishop Moriarty stresses that the issue in the Murphy Report involving his time as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin was in connection to a complaint which came from a priest about "inappropriate behaviour".

"There was no question of a crime, or an allegation being made at that particular stage. What I did at the time was I reported that to the Archbishop of Dublin (Desmond Connell - now Cardinal Connell) and that was his responsibility. And I met then with "Fr Edmondus", whose the name of the priest whom the complaint was made against.

"I told him to desist and stop and then a month later I went down to discuss it with the other priests and they said that the behaviour had improved and changed….I followed that up by visiting him as well. I was in that area very regularly for the next couple of years and during that time no-one came up to me, making any statement, allegation or anything about it.

"I have to stress that when I'm talking about this I don't want to give in any way the impression that any inappropriate behaviour isn't serious, but the other thing is very, very serious - the allegations of child sexual abuse. I thought I did the correct thing - I reported it, I presented it to my superior and it was his responsibility in many ways to take it up...The files were never known to me," Bishop Moriarty said.

Two years later Marie Collins made a complaint in relation to an incident involving the same priest which happened 30 years earlier. "I didn't know her at all, and she didn't come from that area. She then made a very serious allegation," he said.

"The report makes it very clear that Archbishop Connell did not check if there were other complaints. This meant that the concerns were not taken as seriously as they should have been….Sometimes some of the papers give the impression that it was I that didn't do it. But it specifically states in the report that it was Archbishop Connell who didn't check it in that way," he said.

"There were certain things that were dealt with in a certain way. And the way these things were dealt with goes back to John Charles' (McQuaid) stage. And if you glance at the report it even mentions how things happened in Archbishop Ryan's time. It wasn't really properly dealt with at all.

"The only person who really had all the knowledge was the archbishop. I think we could say that the whole decision making process was quite flawed, in many different ways…It was solely down to the archbishop. The framework document that came out in 1995, that was when these allegations were dealt with far more exhaustively and we were brought into the whole ambit of the thing," Bishop Moriarty said.
"My difficulty in trying to explain this is that I might be giving the impression of belittling someone like Marie Collins…I thought it was very interesting that when she was being interviewed, I think it was on Joe Duffy, she mentioned that she was reading (Fr) Liam Lawton's book, and actually I was reading that book at the same time.

"The book is on hope, and I think we are all trying to come through that. All I'm looking for is for in some way to thoroughly and fully look at the report itself," he said.

He said that he, like many others feels revulsion at the abuse. "I would like to express to Marie Collins, and people like her, my disgust at what happened to her. Because I would have great respect for her as a person of integrity and honesty and I would be very hurt if I thought she was offended.

"I didn't meet her and one of the difficulties was I was recently speaking to the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, but the matter that affected her was something that took place in Dublin. It was hard to frame a letter that covered both Dublin and Kildare and Leighlin. She might have seen that open letter, and I made it slightly different in the cathedral because I was speaking it and I was expressing my sorrow, and my regret," he said.

He added that it hasn't been an easy time for himself and his colleagues.

"It is difficult to experience the anger and fall-out. I am 48 and a half years a priest. And I have served wherever the bishop asked me to go. I never particularly wanted to become a bishop…The whole point of my life is in some ways to bring the good news of Jesus Christ. To bring in some way healing and peace to people. That people might think that I'm doing the opposite, I find quite sad".

He added that events have taken their own personal toll on him. "I do feel hurt and upset, but I have to mirror my hurt if you like, when compared with the survivors. What they suffered was much greater. And I would not like to put my suffering and pain in the same parallel at all, as a person like Marie Collins," said.

Bishop Moriarty was positive when asked how the church can move on and learn from the fall-out from the Murphy Report. "I think we have to emphasise the procedures that we have and make the people very clear that this is not ever going to happen again and that all of us are trying our very best to ensure it doesn't," he said.

He is also conscious of tending to lay people in the diocese and moving on with them. "And maybe the next step is if people want to come and see me and talk to me as individuals or groups," he said.

He said it is a particular challenge to deal with how loyal and active church members have been betrayed or let down. "It is difficult because they have lost a lot of trust in what has happened, and trust in people they thought were leaders…we have to try to make sure the structures are there, and the people are there... I've been in every parish in the diocese and in places where no other bishop has been for sixty years or seventy years….Maybe now I have to try to come to terms with those people who feel very betrayed and very hurt, and I will be looking for ways to try and explore that," he said.

While it is often claimed that bishops live a privileged live, removed from the reality of every day life, Bishop Moriarty feels he is particularly grounded. Long before this point was put to him, our photographer pointed out that a piece of hair was standing up, should he wish to comb it before the photograph was taken. "I was hoping to do a Jedward," he quipped, showing that he is very much abreast of X Factor events and fashions.

"I live in a house here, it's not my particular choice to live here. I think I'm a fairly normal person. I have interest in a range of activities. I meet young people particularly. I think my priests here keep me in touch with reality. I don't think I'm that much removed from reality," he said.


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